May 18, 2016 at 2:22 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Santa Fe’s gay mayor advances progressive agenda
Javier Gonzales, gay news, Washington Blade

Javier Gonzales is the first openly gay person elected mayor of Santa Fe, N.M. (Photo courtesy of Matt Ross)

Family is important to gay Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales.

He grew up in what he described to the Washington Blade during a telephone interview on May 11 as a traditional family in which the “idea of relationships was men and women.” Gonzales proudly pointed out that he has two “beautiful” daughters with his ex-wife, but he said there was something missing.

“I struggled,” he said.

Gonzales in 2014 became the first openly gay person elected mayor of New Mexico’s capital city.

The New Mexico native, who is the first member of his family to graduate from college, previously served two terms on the Santa Fe County Commission. He was also a member of the New Mexico State and New Mexico Highlands Universities Board of Regents.

Gonzales’ most recent position was vice president of corporate responsibility and sustainability for Rosemont Realty, which promotes energy efficient office buildings.

“To say it’s special doesn’t give it an adequate word or enough to say how I feel about it,” Gonzales told the Blade, referring to his historic election. “It was really incredibly personal.”

Gonzales noted his parents were “always very, very good about showing respect and not talking ill of anyone who was gay.” He also told the Blade that two of his cousins passed away from HIV.

Gonzales came out to his family between 2010 and 2012, joking it was “a very long coming out process.” His partner, who has four children of his own, also “came out very late in life.”

Gonzales didn’t fully come out as gay until he decided to run for mayor.

“It wasn’t until I made the decision to run that I came out to the community and to the state,” he said.

Gender-neutral bathroom ordinance sparked ‘nasty’ comments

One of the first things that Gonzales proposed upon taking office was a gender-neutral bathroom ordinance.

The measure has subsequently gone into effect, but Gonzales conceded that it sparked a backlash among some Santa Fe residents. He noted he received comments that included the ordinance was able to pass because voters had elected a gay mayor.

“They were nasty,” said Gonzales. “They were brutal.”

Gonzales has also spoken extensively about income inequality, child hunger and climate change since taking office. He told the Blade that longer drought cycles have had an adverse impact on the forests that surround Santa Fe.

“There’s a recipe for disaster when drought cycles go on longer and you have timber up in our watershed,” said Gonzales, referring to the increased risk of wildfires.

GOP ‘telling flat out lies’ about LGBT issues

Gonzales spoke with the Blade two days after the Justice Department filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against North Carolina over House Bill 2 that bans transgender people from using bathrooms consistent with their gender identity and prohibits municipalities from enacting LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances. The state’s governor, Pat McCrory, earlier that day sued the Justice Department over its deadline to stop enforcing the controversial law.

“As far as we’ve come as a country when it comes to equality for gays and lesbians, we are nowhere near when it comes to the transgender community,” said Gonzales. “I get it. I understand when people don’t know something they tend to instantly move toward fear.”

“The Republican Party stokes that fear by telling flat out lies,” he added. “It becomes very conflicting for people.”

Gonzales is up for re-election in 2018.

He told the Blade that he has not made any decisions about whether to run for another term. Gonzales added, however, that he loves “being mayor of my city.”

“There’s an enormous opportunity to develop policy for all our citizens,” he said.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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