After recently being denied marriage licenses, two same-sex Flagstaff couples joined a lawsuit Monday challenging the state’s one-man-one-woman definition of marriage. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the lawsuit seeks to overturn a 2008 voter approved amendment to the state constitution.
The two couples filed for marriage licenses within the last two weeks at the Coconino County Courthouse in Flagstaff. They were denied and Monday their attorneys filed an amended complaint in federal court which added their clients to a federal class-action lawsuit filed against the state in January.
The suit was brought by four Arizona couples challenging the state’s definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. They argue that the Arizona constitution’s prohibition of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. This is based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year abolishing the denial of federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.
Ryan Stevens, one of the attorneys representing the Flagstaff couples, says that socially same-sex marriage is becoming more acceptable in the U.S.
“I think that a lot of the public sentiment has now shifted greatly, in the last, say four to six years. As a result of that we think socially we’re well supported in doing what we’re doing,” Stevens says.
A 2008 ballot-approved proposition amended the Arizona state constitution to designate marriage as between one man and one woman, essentially prohibiting same-sex marriage. Several other states have passed similar measures. Arizona is one of 16 states with lawsuits in progress challenging same-sex marriage bans.
Mik Jordahl, the other attorney representing the Flagstaff couples, says the Arizona suit is emblematic of broadly shifting opinions.
“I think it is a wave going across the country — it’s a generational shift as well. People in my son’s generation, they look at gay people and marriage and they say, ‘What’s the big deal?’ Some in the older generation, more conservative, don’t have that viewpoint,” Jordahl says.
Recently, court decisions in Utah and Oklahoma determined that same-sex unions were legal. Both of those decisions are currently in limbo pending rulings from federal appeals courts. More than 900 couples wedded in Utah before the Supreme Court halted them pending an appeal before the 10th Circuit Court.