Friday, February 03, 2017

Arizona • Sun, Snow & Fun

Written by  David Placher
A chill in Flagstaff A chill in Flagstaff

Arizona, the home to the Grand Canyon, became a state on February 14th, 1912, and it was the last of the 48 coterminous United States to be admitted to the union. Originally it was part of New Mexico, but the land was ceded to the U.S. in 1848, and became a separate territory in 1863.

Arizona is filled with natural beauties. Its mountain ranges extend all over and they present appearances of either broken and detached spurs or continuous ranges that stretch for miles. The state’s climate ranges from uncomfortably hot to just freezing, and this variation in the state can take place at the same time. For example, in Flagstaff, it’s not unusual to find snow on the top of the San Francisco Mountain on the same day in June that in Phoenix the mercury is well into the 90s. Arizona’s diverse landscape also provides awesome views, with the brown desert in Tucson and the red rock in Sedona. The dry heat is a relief for some from the hot and humid air of Maryland.

Underneath this beauty is a politically solid red state that is developing dark blue cracks. Its governor, two U.S. Senators, five out of four congressional districts, and both state houses are Republican. In presidential elections, the last time Arizona went blue is in 1996. Although progress is being made to slowly turn Arizona blue – like Nevada – it appears the state has a few years to go before Democrats hold a statewide office. But with all this red, Arizona has shown some support for the LGBT community by enacting laws, producing a famous politician in the 60s that advocated for the LGBT community in the 90s, and with Phoenix having an unusual high number of gay bars.

Since October 17th, 2014, Arizona has recognized same-sex marriage since being forced to end its statutory and constitutional bans on same-sex marriage by the decision of a U.S. district court. Some of its other LGBT victories include the following: former Governor Janet Napolitano issued an executive order in 2003 that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public employment; the cities of Chandler, Flagstaff, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, and Tucson passed laws prohibiting discrimination in employment on the basis of both gender identity and sexual orientation; Arizona includes sexual orientation as a protected group covered by its hate crimes law; and finally, Arizona also issues a new birth certificate to transgender people.

Moreover, Barry Goldwater (1909-1998) was a five-term U.S. Senator from Arizona (1953-65, 1969-87) and the Republican Party’s nominee for President in the 1964 election. He is credited for resurrecting the conservative movement that promotes smaller government. Goldwater’s grandson, Ty Ross, a former Zoli model, is openly gay and HIV positive. Ty inspired Goldwater to be a proponent of including “gay” in civil rights. During the 1990s, Goldwater advocated for allowing gays to serve in the military, and he worked in Phoenix to end job discrimination against gays. In 1994, he became honorary chairman of a drive to pass a federal law preventing job discrimination against gays. With Goldwater being a conservative Republican, his courage to advocate is both noteworthy and surprising.

With other cities experiencing a decline in gay bars, Phoenix appears to be bucking the trend. There are around 20 gay bars in Phoenix. Some of the more popular ones include Kobalt (spelled with a “K” as opposed to D.C.’s gay bar Colbalt), with its outdoor patio and nicely designed inside; Bliss / ReBar, with its theme nights; Oz Bar, with its cheap deals on drinks; and the R Lounge, with its friendly atmosphere.

Traveling to Phoenix is easy: a four-hour direct flight from Baltimore can land you in the sizzling city of Phoenix, Arizona. Southwest Airlines offers rates as low as $279 round trip.

Although Phoenix has a light rail and buses, it is hard to navigate throughout by public transportation. You should plan to rent a car and be prepared to drive a few hours to sightsee. Hotel costs can range from cheap to expensive, but deals can be found depending on the type of hotel. If you are planning a short trip (leave on Wednesday and return on Sunday), Arizona is the perfect adventure.


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