A bill to help LGBTQ+ students access local scholarships died in the House

The bill was never heard in committee, and a last-ditch effort to get it added onto another bill was killed by a fellow LGBTQ+ legislator.

A bill to help LGBTQ+ students access local scholarships died in the House
In November, Equality Maricopa raised enough funds to propose a bill that created an LGBTQ+ license plate that would help fund scholarships for local students. It died last week in the house. (Equality Marciopa Instagram)

A bill aimed at creating a scholarship fund for LGBTQ+ students and others failed after the state's only openly gay Republican motioned against it.

Last week during the House Committee of the Whole, where state representatives do a final debate on bills passed through committees before switching over to the Senate, Rep. Lorena Austin (D-Mesa) tried to amend a bill to include legislation she proposed that created a special license plate where proceeds went to Maricopa Community College’s Prism Scholarship supporting LGBTQ+ students.

As LOOKOUT reported last year, the bill faced the reality of not being heard in the legislature, since both Senate and House Republican leadership have stonewalled any bills in support of LGBTQ+ causes. House leadership never assigned Austin's bill to a committee so it didn't receive a hearing for a vote.

There are more than two-dozen specialty plates available, including one for the State48 Foundation, run by a local brewer and clothing company, and Alice Cooper's Solid Rock Teen Center, which gives youth free music lessons.

By law, organizations that want to raise money for causes using state license plate sales simply need to raise $32,000 for production and design of the plate and then get a bill passed in the legislature approving the plate.

Equality Maricopa, an LGBTQ+ student and staff organization at the colleges, raised the required money last year with significant help from press coverage, donations and promotions from local businesses, as well as a Pride event that brought in RuPaul's Drag Race winner Willow Pill, and other performers.

Austin, the main sponsor on the the bill for Equality Maricopa, pleaded on the Capitol floor with the House Committee of the Whole to include the plate.

“Currently, Maricopa Community Colleges is not funded on a state level, we give scrums of money here and there, but they do need a lot of resources for students,” Austin said. “They have worked really hard to raise this money for the past two years and they have the money.”

But the state’s only openly gay Republican Matt Gress (R-Paradise Valley), shut down the bill immediately, saying it needed to be “contained in its current form.”

Rep. Neal Carter (R-San Tan Valley) went on to say incorrectly that the bill was “discriminatory,” and said that “it’s a scholarship for one subset of Arizonans instead of all Arizonans.”

(Though the scholarship gives preference to LGBTQ+ students, it does not require it.)

Through a floor vote—not tabulating individual votes and instead relying on vocal yea's or nay's—the House voted no.

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