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Lambda Legal files federal lawsuit challenging Arizona’s gay marriage ban

Thursday, March 13, 2014
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Arizona

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Lambda Legal announced Thursday it has filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Arizona on behalf of seven same-sex couples and the surviving spouses of two additional same-sex couples challenging the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

In the lawsuit filed Wednesday, Lambda Legal argues that the Arizona constitutional amendment and state statutes barring same-sex couples from marriage violates the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“Every day that same-sex couples in Arizona are denied marriage, the government sends a message that their families are not worthy of equal dignity and respect,” said Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Jennifer C. Pizer.

The lead plaintiffs, Nelda Majors, 75, and Karen Bailey, 74, of Scottsdale, have been together for more than 55 years, and together have raised two children, Karen’s great grand-nieces Marissa and Sharla, as their own daughters since the girls came into their home as toddlers. Marissa is now 15 and Sharla 21.

“Karen and I have been together since 1957,” Majors said. “We’re a committed, loving family, have raised two amazing girls together, have seen each other through thick and thin, in sickness and in health. After five decades together, we want to celebrate and affirm our deep love for each other as other couples do, before our friends and family, through marriage.”

“We’re also getting up there in years. I want to know that, should anything happen to me, there would be no question about Karen being allowed to be with me at the hospital, and vice versa. If we were married, there would be no question and we both would feel more secure,” said Majors.

“Arizona’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples serves no legitimate state interest, brands these loving couples and their children as second-class citizens, and encourages private bias and discrimination,” Pizer said. “And because the State does not even offer a lesser status such as civil union or domestic partnership, these loving couples live every day with the uncertainty that their families and relationships lack even basic protections.”

The other plaintiffs include three couples and a widower from Phoenix, two couples and a widow from Tucson and one couple from Tempe.

“Today’s filing represents a critically important step in the ongoing work toward marriage equality in Arizona,” said Rebecca Wininger, Board President, Equality Arizona. “Arizona is justly celebrated for its stunning natural beauty, its artistic communities and its wonderful ethnic and geographic diversity. It is time to add celebration of the rich diversity of couples and families and to welcome fully and equally the families headed by same-sex couples to the security and stability marriage provides.”

Also on Thursday, Lambda Legal announced it has filed a similar challenge in Indiana, and the ACLU filed suit in Florida seeking recognition of legal same-sex marriages performed out-of-state.

The Arizona case is Majors v. Horne. Read the complaint here.

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