The GOP holds a 31-29 seat advantage over Democrats in the Arizona House of Representatives. As a result, Republicans were able to select the next speaker of the House, and they chose Russell "Rusty" Bowers. Rep. Bowers has been an off-and-on high-ranking political figure since 1993, when he was first elected to serve as an Arizona senator.
Although Bowers' extensive political experience may make him look like a great choice for speaker of the House, his history of supporting anti-LGBT legislation has some questioning how his recent appointment could affect the Arizona gay community.
During his most recent reelection bid, "Rusty" Bowers filled out a Voter Guide Survey that showcased his intention to stand opposed to equal rights for LGBT individuals.
Per AZVoterGuide, Russell Bowers supported a measure intended to enable parents to force LGBT children into counseling or conversion therapy in order to "help them reach their [the parents'] desired outcome." Bowers further opposed a measure intended to add "sexual orientation," "gender expression," and "gender identity" to the state's protected classes under Arizona's anti-discrimination law.
Bowers also encouraged the Arizona Supreme Court to hear a case regarding the religious beliefs of business owners who want to be able to turn away LGBT customers. Earlier this month, Tuscon.com reported that Bowers is going to get his wish. The state's Supreme Court will hear a case brought by two Phoenix women who want to subvert the city's existing law that states they must offer custom orders to anyone who requests them.
New Speaker of the House Russell Bowers didn't just start advocating against LGBT rights, either. He has a long history dating back to 2004 of opposing equality and proposing legal challenges for the LGBT community. He even went so far as to defend an unconstitutional state law that prohibited sexual contact without the intention of procreation, including sodomy.
According to the Movement Advancement Project, the conversion therapy that Bowers supports has already been outlawed in Washington, DC, and 14 states, but Arizona does not currently provide any legal protection for LGBT minors who don't wish to undergo this practice. However, Arizona does appear poised to move toward LGBT protections, regardless of Rep. Bowers' viewpoints.ThinkProgress pointed out that residents of Arizona voted an openly bisexual female candidate into office this year, and there's also been a big movement toward making it illegal for employers to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Speaker of the House Russell Bowers may have a big fight on his hands if he intends to undo Arizona's forward momentum for LGBT equality.