State Capitol News
3:18 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Federal CT Ruling on Gay Marriage Could Affect AZ Law

A federal court ruling today voiding California's ban on same-sex marriage could eventually affect a similar law here. 

In a divided ruling a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the 2008 California initiative banning same sex marriage runs afoul of the equal protection provision of the U.S. Constitution. The court's rulings hold precedent for all Western states, including Arizona, where voters approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage also in 2008. 

Nick Ray of Equality Arizona said the Court's ruling is important, because "what they talked about was the unconstitutionality of eliminating a right that had been granted to same-sex couples when there was no rational basis for doing so. Here, in Arizona, we've never granted the right to marry. So the narrow version of this case wouldn't necessarily impact in Arizona."

Cathi Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy, which pushed Arizona's Proposition 102, acknowledged that difference.

But she said Arizona does offer some special protections to gay couples that a court might conclude -- wrongly she believes -- that there is no reason to deny them the right to marry.

"In states where people have voted on marriage, marriage has won every time," said Herrod. "I think it's 31 states now. The 9th Circuit decision is one more example of activist judges making the law and not deferring to the people."

And Nick Ray, of Equity Arizona, said the U.S. Supreme Court, which could eventually get the case, may decide the issue on the broader right to marry regardless of what had been done before.