State Capitol News
9:21 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Court Case Aims to Green Light Gay Marriage in Arizona

Four gay couples went to court Monday seeking the right to be legally wed in the state. Arizona Public Radio's Howard Fischer reports.

Credit npr.org

The lawsuit filed in federal court claims a 2008 voter-approved state constitutional amendment, which bars same-sex marriages, violates their individual rights under equal protection and due process provisions of the United States Constitution. Attorney Shawn Aiken said there is no legitimate basis to deny his clients the same rights and protections of marriage afforded opposite-sex couples. But, Aiken also has a fallback legal argument for two of the couples who were married in California. He wants Judge John Sedwick to rule that the Constitution bars Arizona from refusing to recognize what was done legally elsewhere.

“The Full Faith and Credit Clause requires that one state recognize fill-in-the-blank: death certificate, birth certificate. And court judgments and marriage certificates fall right in the same category,” Aiken said.

Last year the U.S. Supreme Court voided a part of the Defense of Marriage Act which forbade the federal government from recognizing gay marriages performed in states where it is legal. That led to changes in laws and regulations entitling legally wed gay couples to things like being able to file joint federal tax returns and receive survivor benefits.

But, the justices did not address another provision of DOMA which says states need not recognize same-sex nuptials from other states. Aiken said, though, that the federal law cannot trump the couples’ constitutional rights.