PHOENIX — Arizonans on both sides of the political spectrum praised the
U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on marriage equality Wednesday while setting the
stage for a new battle over the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.
The Supreme Court struck down a provision of a law that denies federal benefits
to married gay couples. It also cleared the way for same-sex marriage in
California. But the court said nothing about gay marriage bans in other states.
Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said after the ruling that she didn’t
believe voters would support any effort to overturn the state’s gay marriage
“I think that (gays) can be extended certain kinds of privileges,” she said.
“But I do believe marriage is between a man and a woman.”
Marriage equality proponents hope to use the high court rulings as leverage in
a campaign to change the Arizona constitution and legalize gay marriage. Equal
Marriage Arizona announced its ballot initiative earlier this month but delayed
gathering signatures for its petition until the Supreme Court issued its
rulings. The campaign hopes to collect roughly 400,000 signatures to get its
constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2014.
“This is the way Arizona can honor both individual liberty… and religious
liberty,” said organizer Erin Ogletree Simpson.
Volunteers and paid campaign workers intend to begin circulating the gay
marriage petition on Thursday. It would define marriage as between two persons
rather than a man and a woman. The measure states that religious organizations
wouldn’t be required to officiate a gay marriage.
The state’s 2008 gay marriage ban passed with 56 percent of the vote. More
recently, Bisbee became the first Arizona city to legalize civil unions for
same-sex couples in April. Tempe and several other cities later said they are
considering similar civil union ordinances.
Rebecca Wininger of Equality Arizona said she wasn’t surprised that the Supreme
Court didn’t go further and declare marriage equality a civil rights issue, but
she said the rulings were a win nevertheless because gay marriage was not struck
“Now we have more precedent on our side,” she said. “It’s another step
toward full equality across the nation for the LGBT community, a little bit of
validation that we are here and we are here to stay.”
Cathi Herrod, president of the conservative Center for Arizona Policy, praised
the court for recognizing the will of Arizona voters who passed the gay marriage
ban. The influential organization plans to fight the referendum effort.
“It’s important to note that the court did not legalize gay marriage for all
50 states,” Herrod said. “We will continue to defend the definition of
marriage as between a man and a woman.”
AP writer Bob Christie contributed to this report.