News (USA)

Arizona lawmakers consider response to fall of same-sex marriage ban

The Arizona state capitol in Phoenix.
The Arizona state capitol in Phoenix.

PHOENIX — The end of Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriage has legislators staking out a range of positions on what they should and shouldn’t do in response.

The gay rights issue caused turmoil at the Capitol last spring when lawmakers passed a religious-rights bill allowing businesses to deny service to gays and lesbians. Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill.

Now, there is both support and opposition among majority Republicans for a new measure along the lines of the vetoed bill, the Arizona Capitol Times reported.

Meanwhile, minority Democrats say the state should approve new anti-discrimination protections for gay and lesbians and eliminate an existing provision in state law giving adoption preferences to married heterosexual couples.

Citing an appellate court’s recent ruling overturning bans in Idaho and Nevada, a federal judge Friday overturned the state’s ban. The appellate court’s territory also includes Arizona, and the fate of the state’s ban was sealed when state Attorney General Tom Horne said he wouldn’t appeal the judge’s order.

The Arizona Legislature begins its 2015 regular session in January.

Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said consideration of a new version of the vetoed bill would be contentious but necessary.

“But there has to be some kind of acknowledgement that we have to develop the right kind of policy to handle situations that may arise when one person believes something should happen because of equality, and someone else on the liberties side of the argument says you shouldn’t force someone to do that,” Mesnard said. “We’re going to have to have that conversation.”

Another Republican, Rep. T.J. Shope of Coolidge said the appetite isn’t there to revisit the issue.

“We’ve gone down that road. Let’s just leave well enough alone,” he said.

The decision to allow gay marriages sends a good signal to the world that Arizona is welcoming and open to all kinds of people, Shope said.

Rep. Demion Clinco, a Tucson Democrat who is the Arizona House’s only openly gay member, said lawmakers should provide new protections for the LGBT community, which he said would help attract major employers to Arizona.

“If we don’t make a move to make sure that everyone is treated equally under the law and that we don’t allow discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, we’re going to lose out to other companies that do when they look at relocating,” he said.

Sen. Steve Gallardo, a Phoenix Democrat who also is openly gay, said the state also should erase some current laws, including one giving adoption preference to straight couples.

“I think there’s still, in terms of gay marriage, I think there’s still some laws that need to be looked at,” Gallardo said.

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