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Federal judge strikes down Arizona same-sex marriage ban

Kevin Patterson, left, and David Larance exchange vows as Rev. John Dorhaer, right, officiates the ceremony, Friday, Oct. 17, 2014, in Phoenix. Gay marriage has become legal in Arizona after the state's conservative attorney general said Friday that he wouldn't challenge a federal court decision that cleared the way for same-sex unions in the state.
Kevin Patterson, left, and David Larance exchange vows as Rev. John Dorhaer, right, officiates the ceremony, Friday, Oct. 17, 2014, in Phoenix. Gay marriage has become legal in Arizona after the state’s conservative attorney general said Friday that he wouldn’t challenge a federal court decision that cleared the way for same-sex unions in the state.
Rick Scuteri, AP

The issue has long been a source of tension in Arizona. Nearly eight months ago, Brewer vetoed the bill that would have protected people who assert their religious belief in refusing service to gays. It would have allowed people to claim their religious beliefs as a defense against claims of discrimination. Critics called it an open attack on gay people, saying said it could allow people to break nearly any law and cite religious freedom as a defense.

The proposal set off a national debate over religion and discrimination. Companies such as Apple Inc. and American Airlines urged Brewer to veto the bill, saying it would hurt the state and could alienate businesses looking to expand there.

Horne, meanwhile, said he’s done all he could to defend the ban and that further court wrangling would waste taxpayer dollars.

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“The probability of the 9th Circuit reversing today’s District Court decision is zero. The probability of the United States Supreme Court accepting review of the 9th Circuit decision is also zero,” he said.

The decision from U.S. District Judge John Sedwick bars Arizona officials from enforcing a 1996 state law and a 2008 voter-approved constitutional amendment that outlawed gay marriage.

Lawyers who pushed lawsuits challenging the state’s gay marriage ban argued the state law violated equal protection and due process rights and wrongfully denied their clients the benefits of marriage, such as spousal pension benefits, spousal survivorship rights and the ability to make medical decisions for each other.

Attorneys representing the state urged Sedwick to uphold the state’s definition of a marriage as a union between a man and woman. They argued the ban furthers the state’s interest in connecting a child to his or her biological mother and father and that voters and lawmakers enacted the ban to protect their right to define marriage for their community.

After the attorney general said the state would not fight to stop weddings, a crowd of about a dozen gay couples cheered and rushed into the clerk’s office, smiling and hugging.

Michael K. Jeanes, the clerk who oversees the state’s most populous county, which includes Phoenix, tweeted immediately after the ruling: “Welcome All to the Clerk’s Office. Your marriage license awaits and we are ready to serve you!”

The ruling is here.

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Statement by Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne on decision not to appeal:

“The decision I make today has to be based on legal considerations rather than policy considerations. I believe the first duty of the Attorney General is to be a good lawyer.

Lawyers live under a rule called Rule 11, which provides that it is unethical for a lawyer to file a pleading for purposes of delay rather than to achieve a result.

The probability of persuading the 9th circuit to reverse today’s decision is zero. The probability of the United States Supreme Court accepting review of the 9th circuit decision is also zero.

Therefore, the only purpose to be served by filing another appeal would be to waste the taxpayer’s money. That is not a good conservative principle.

I have decided not to appeal today’s decision, which would be an exercise in futility, and which would serve only the purpose of wasting taxpayers’ money.

I am issuing a letter today to the 15 county clerks of court with the directive that based on today’s decision by the Federal District Court, they can issue licenses for same sex marriages immediately.”

Developing story. This report will be updated.

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