Arizona’s same-sex marriage ban likely to fall in wake of 9th Circuit ruling



PHOENIX — The federal appeals court overseeing Arizona overturned gay marriage bans in two other states Tuesday in a decision that means same-sex marriage is virtually certain to be declared legal in Arizona soon.

The ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out same-sex marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada on constitutional grounds. The same issues have been raised by gay couples in two pending federal lawsuits challenging Arizona’s same-sex marriage ban.

Lawyers in the Arizona suits are expected to urge the judge overseeing them to take note of the appeals court ruling and immediately strike down the state’s ban.

“The big question of course is when is Arizona going to start issuing marriage licenses, and the answer is not today, not tomorrow, but we are getting there,” said Heather Macre, a lawyer on one of the Arizona cases. “And we are absolutely pushing for a ruling that would allow that here in Arizona as quickly as possible.”

The 9th Circuit decision comes a day after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear appeals from five states where other federal appeals courts have blocked gay marriage bans. The high court decision cleared the way for a dramatic expansion of gay marriage in the United States and sent a signal that bans on gay marriage might fall in all 50 states.

The Arizona attorney general’s office, which is defending the state’s ban, said in a statement that it is reviewing the appeals court decision.

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“We will then discuss those implications with our clients, advise them accordingly, and determine the appropriate course of action,” the statement said.

But barring that, Arizona’s ban is history, said Paul Bender, a constitutional law professor at Arizona State University. The two existing lawsuits give U.S. District Judge John Sedwick a rapid way of deciding the implication of the ruling.

“I would expect that the parties would move for summary judgment, and he will grant it based on the 9th Circuit opinion,” Bender said.

Arizona lawmakers approved a state law barring same-sex marriages in 1996, and the law was upheld by an Arizona appeals court seven years later. Voters in 2008 amended the Arizona Constitution to include the ban.

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