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Updated May 22, 2013 - 12:00 pm

State’s attorney won’t fight new Bisbee civil union measure

BISBEE, Ariz. — The city of Bisbee is moving forward with a new version of
a proposed local law allowing civil unions, and a spokeswoman for Arizona
Attorney General Tom Horne said Horne won’t sue to try to block it.

The Bisbee City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday night to formally propose a
scaled-back version of the ordinance. That sets the stage for a June 4 vote by
the council on whether to approve the measure.

“He thinks it’s fine,” Horne spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said Wednesday in
Phoenix regarding Horne’s view of the new version.

Bisbee officials rewrote an earlier version of the ordinance after Horne
threatened to sue over provisions Horne said conflicted with state law or went
beyond the city’s authority.

A spokesman for the Center for Arizona Policy, a Phoenix-based group of
Christian social conservatives that criticized the original Bisbee ordinance,
did not immediately return a call for comment on the new version.

The council postponed implementation of the original ordinance, which sought to
give people in civil unions the same benefits as those in marriages.

The new version still sets forth a process for Bisbee to recognize civil unions
but describes those as contractual agreements.

A line in the original ordinance, which has since been omitted, said couples in
a civil union would have the same responsibilities and benefits as married
couples.

Under the new version, people who are in civil unions recognized only within
the city of Bisbee could file contractual statements spelling out their
agreed-upon “rights, obligations and expectations” in matters such as
inheritances, property ownership and children.

Some of those agreements “may require additional documentation and other
formalities” to make them effective under state law, the revised ordinance
states, adding that “the city of Bisbee makes no warranty or guarantee
regarding the legality or enforceability of any agreements or nominations of the
parties.”

For itself, the city said it would recognize civil unions in connection with
employee benefits and city activities such as cemetery operations.

The ordinance retains policy statements saying the city supports efforts to
combat discrimination against gay and lesbian couples.

Citing state laws on such things as property ownership, Horne had said people
entering into Bisbee-recognized civil unions could have been misled about what
rights they actually had under the original ordinance.

Several Arizona cities, including Tempe, have said they are considering similar
civil union ordinances.

Tucson already has a domestic-partner registry, but officials of the southern
Arizona city are considering changes to allow couples to record partnership
contracts, similar to Bisbee’s revised measure.

The Tucson registry currently provides couples with only a few tangible
benefits, such as giving partners additional hospital visitation rights and
recognizing partners as a family for purposes of qualifying for city services.

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