It may sound like a lot of joe to brew, but Hughey knows firsthand the power of dialogue in a comfortable setting. After multiple life experiences, Hughey and her wife Sheri Owens co-founded ONE Community, a for-profit coalition of socially responsible businesses supporting diversity, inclusion and equality for all Arizonans. Shortly following its inception, the nonprofit ONE Community Foundation was established, reshaping Arizona’s image through education, empowerment and connection with its diverse LGBTQ individuals and their allies.
“We wanted to make sure we’re doing business with organizations that treated us with respect,” says Hughey, also ONE Community president. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, Independent or your religious beliefs. Our shared value is all Arizona. We really want to meet people where they are and have thoughtful conversation. If we have to do it one cup of coffee at a time, we will do it.”
And with that came another chapter. In 2013, the organization launched UNITY Pledge, a concerted effort by Arizona businesses, organizations, faith leaders and individuals to advance workplace equality and equal treatment in housing and public accommodations for LGBTQ individuals and their allies. To date, more than 3,200 businesses and more than 20,000 Arizonans have taken the UNITY Pledge, which is the largest equality pledge in the nation.
“The business community and like-minded individuals understand that if we want to compete for top talent, we must have diverse and inclusive workplaces,” Hughey says.
In February 2014, the ONE Community continued the dialogue by speaking against the controversial Senate Bill 1062, which allows businesses the right to deny service to gay and lesbian customers if those customers somehow offended the proprietors’ religious beliefs, according to NPR. The group also reached out to pledge signers and encouraged its ongoing mantra “that discrimination is bad for business and bad for Arizona.”
They also partnered with ONE Community business member FASTSIGNS on Central Avenue in Phoenix to create the “OPEN for Business to Everyone” signs. More than 3,500 signs were distributed in less than 72 hours.
“This campaign, along with the efforts of our partners, was integral in encouraging our governor to veto the bill, and a movement was born,” according to the ONE Community website.
As of press time, The Washington Post reported that a bipartisan group of Arizona lawmakers again pushed a proposal to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity despite repeated failures to obtain a hearing due to opposition from social conservatives in the legislature. The most recent Municipal Equality Index lists Phoenix, Tempe and Tucson among the top three in LGBTQ inclusion in municipal law and policy.
Another way ONE Community is trying to open better dialogue is through the Institute Certification Program, a comprehensive training tool that guides corporate leaders toward building an LGBTQ-inclusive workplace. The training modules are designed so that employees at every level of leadership can learn how their unique influence and responsibilities can lift up the company. Training and modules are available for executives, leaders and employees.
Hughey says the “UNITY institute is so incredibly important” in helping Arizona businesses continue being competitive, recruiting and retaining top talent.
Shelia Kloefkorn, founder, CEO and president of KEO Marketing Inc. in Phoenix and Tempe, echoes Hughey’s sentiments. A tireless advocate for equality with Hughey, she was named ONE Community’s 2019 Spotlight on Success Local Hero.
“Never believe one person cannot make a change. I remember my mom saying she was, ‘writing to her legislature because she cared deeply about an issue and if I don’t write, they won’t know I care,’” Kloefkorn says.
Although both Hughey and Kloefkorn agree that substantial strides have occurred, there’s more work to be done. “It’s important for young people to know what it took to get us here,” Kloefkorn says. “We all stand on the shoulders of people who have come before us.”
Hughey agrees, always willing to meet anyone over a cup of coffee. “I would like to see a future that celebrates and protects all of Arizona,” she says, “to garner more support and educate Arizona to value everyone in Arizona that lives in this great state, especially the LGBTQ community.”
By Juila De Simone
Photo: Mark Lipczynski