Javier Gonzales, the first openly gay mayor of Santa Fe, New Mexico, is not backing down from President-elect Donald Trump's threat to withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities. He recently joined a chorus of mayors around the country who denounced Trump's immigration plan and promised they would not use local law enforcement to prosecute undocumented immigrants.
"The reason why I stood up and said quite publicly, 'No, we're not going to change our status,' is because I think it's a question of values," Gonzales told NBC OUT. He said New Mexico's capital would lose about $6 million dollars if Trump follows through with his plan to cancel funding to sanctuary cities. Critics say sanctuary cities are safe havens for illegal immigrants who commit crimes, but Gonzales argued that Santa Fe's policy doesn't tolerate criminals.
"We have a criminal justice system that goes after the criminal, the individual who did the act, not a criminal justice system that goes after an entire demographic the person comes from," he said.
The out mayor expressed concern over how Trump's plan to deport undocumented immigrants could potentially affect married couples in Santa Fe, including those who are LGBTQ.
"Here in Santa Fe we have many married couples and many relationships where one of the individuals does not have a legal status, and to be able to listen to their worries and their lives being disrupted and what it means for their own futures is heartbreaking," he said. "Every member of the LGBT community who has gone through the last 20-25 years of civil rights and fighting for equality certainly could or should empathize with people who are married but don't have [protected] status because of a broken immigration system to be in our country lawfully."
Gonzales comes from a political family with deep roots in the small southwestern city that has been an immigrant stronghold for centuries. The son of Santa Fe's former mayor George Abrán Gonzales, who ran an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 1972, Gonzales has been immersed in politics since childhood.
"The bug was in me from an early age," Gonzales said. Like his father, he served as a commissioner of Santa Fe County before running for mayor. He came out publicly as gay before beginning his mayoral campaign in 2013.
"Of course I knew from an early age that I was gay but really didn't see a way for me to come out," Gonzales said.
The 50-year-old followed a traditional path when he was young, getting married and having two daughters with his wife, who he is now divorced from. But Gonzales ultimately decided to live as his authentic self. He first broke the news to his family.
"I knew that it was most important for my two daughters … that I become a true authentic father for them, that they would know really who I was," Gonzales said. "And quite honestly, I couldn't continue to live a lie."
Gonzales lives with his partner, who has children of his own. He joked that their family, consisting of two 17-year-olds, two 12-year-olds and two 10-year-olds — all fathered by two divorced dads — are Santa Fe's modern "Gaydy Bunch" — a pun on the 1970s sitcom "The Brady Bunch."
"It is busy and vey dynamic. The family dynamics are phenomenal. You had two men who came out late in life, four boys that were adopted at a very early age, you have two girls. It becomes a lot of fun for sure," he said.
Gonzales has been progressive on LGBTQ rights since taking office in 2014. He fought on behalf of Santa Fe's transgender community to pass a controversial gender-neutral bathroom ordinance for single stall public restrooms and joined U.S. mayors across the country in opposing so-called "religious freedom" laws. Gonzales is concerned about how Trump's new administration may impact the broader LGBTQ community, including the President-elect's promise to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court. But he's confident about the future of Santa Fe.
"Throughout the day there's a very strong sense of optimism about our community and the fact that Santa Fe is a global destination," Gonzales said. "And being the mayor of a city that is multicultural with such a strong rich history, there's so many areas to be optimistic and to work with."