Arizona VIPs join gay-marriage playbill

Honoree Ben Affleck, right, poses with Gala Chair Cindy McCain at the Cinema For Peace Foundation's 2013 Gala for Humanity at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, in Beverly Hills, Calif.
  • The play %228%22 is based on California%27s Proposition 8.
  • Script taken from transcripts of lawsuit challenging the proposition.
  • Executive producer is former Tempe mayor.
  • PHOENIX — Cindy McCain, Pat McMahon and Grant Woods are among the Arizona luminaries who have signed on to perform a public reading of the play “8” in support of the marriage-equality movement.

    “We thought it would be fun to include a real diverse group of Arizona voices who support full equality,” said former Tempe Mayor Neil Giuliano, who is executive-producing the reading in partnership with Arizona Theatre Company. It will be performed May 7 at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix.

    The play, taking its title from California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state in 2008, is by Dustin Lance Black, screenwriter of the films “J. Edgar” and “Milk.” It’s based on court transcripts of final arguments from Perry vs. Schwarzenneger, the lawsuit that led to the overturn of the proposition and eventually to the current legal showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court.

    McCain, wife of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Has been outspoken in her support of same-sex marriage rights even though her husband opposes them.

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    “That’s reflective of a lot of families, so I think that’s OK,” said Giuliano, who has been friends with the McCains for many years. “That’s the reality we have today, so it’s important to have the conversation.”.

    In addition to Woods — a Republican and former Arizona attorney general — and KTAR radio personality McMahon, public figures performing in “8” will include Democratic state Sen. Jack Johnson Jr., Phoenix City Councilman Tom Simplot and lawyer Nicole France Stanton, wife of Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.

    Joining them onstage will be Broadway actor Rory O’Malley (“The Book of Mormon”), CNN and ESPN commentator LZ Granderson and gay-rights activist Cleve Jones, creator of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

    Simplot said he was excited for the performance, even though the last time he acted in a play was in high school.

    “None of us could have imagined 10 years ago or even five years ago that the Supreme Court would be hearing both of these pivotal cases,” he said, referring to the Prop 8 appeal as well as challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, both of which were argued before the court in March.

    “Everyone’s talking about this issue, and then what’s happened in Bisbee continues the dialogue here in Arizona,” Simplot said. “So the timing of this production has turned out to be absolutely perfect.”.

    The Bisbee, Ariz., City Council’s recent vote to legalize civil unions is the latest example of how hot the topic of gay rights has become, even in a solidly conservative state.

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    Both sides of the debate are awaiting the Supreme Court rulings, which likely will come in June, but Giuliano doesn’t expect that will be the end of the argument.

    “What we know is that culture and public opinion leads, and politics and laws follow,” said Giuliano, who was Tempe’s mayor from 1994 to 2004 and now works as CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

    “I would prefer the court be bold and take us all to where we know we’re going as a nation. But if they don’t do that, we will continue to have the battles that we need to have until LGBT Americans are treated equally.”.

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