Town poised to be first in Arizona to approve same-sex civil unions

Bisbee, Ariz. Source

Bisbee, Ariz. Source

BISBEE, Ariz. — The town of Bisbee, Ariz., is poised to become the first municipality in Arizona to legalize civil unions for same-six couples.

On an initial vote Tuesday, the Bisbee city council unanimously approved an ordinance that would give same-sex couples in civil unions the same rights in the city as married, opposite-sex couples.

Bisbee, Ariz. Source

The ordinance, which allows for a form of union regardless of the sexual orientation of the couple, would be effective only within Bisbee and affect certain benefits and policies within the city.

The ordinance states: “The City of Bisbee will exercise its inherent powers of self-government. as established under its city charter, to attempt to lessen the impact of these discriminatory practices upon all citizens within the (city limits).”

The City Council is scheduled to take formal action on the proposed ordinance on April 2, and if approved, would go into effect 30 days after that.

Councilman Ken Budge calls the move long overdue. He describes Bisbee as a “compassionate and open city” doing the right thing.

Bisbee’s ordinance borrows language from a civil union bill proposed in the state Legislature, a measure unlikely to pass the two Republican-controlled chambers.

Arizona has a law dating back to 1996 that defines marriage between one man and one woman. Five years ago, Arizona voters approved adding the language of that law to the state’s constitution.

But town officials note there is nothing in state law about civil unions.

Bisbee, about 80 miles southeast of Tucson, is situated along the U.S.-Mexico border, and has about 5,600 residents. It began as a mining community but is now known mostly as an artist’s haven.

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