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Arizona AG Horne to block civil union ordinance

PHOENIX — Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne will go to court to block the
artists’ community of Bisbee from implementing a newly approved ordinance, said his office Wednesday.

The ordinance recognizes civil unions for same-sex couples.

Horne’s office will file its planned lawsuit “in the coming weeks” before the
ordinance that was approved Tuesday night by the Bisbee City Council takes effect in 30
days, said Horne’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham.

The council approved the ordinance on a five to two vote during an overflow meeting
after three hours of emotional testimony by residents of the former mining town
in mostly rural southeastern Arizona.

Horne had written Bisbee officials Tuesday, expressing concern about the
then-pending ordinance.

Horne said he was not taking a policy stance against civil unions by planning
to sue.

Rather, he said, the council acted outside its legal authority because
state laws control things such as ownership of a couple’s community property,
inheritances, appointment of guardians and disposition of remains after death.

The ordinance cites those state laws and others while stateing a person in a
Bisbee-recognized civil union would have the same responsibilities and benefits
as a married person.

However, Bisbee City Attorney John MacKinnon said Tuesday that the ordinance
would only affect things that the city controls, such as its personnel practices
and the city cemetery.

Bisbee wasn’t changing state law and was acting within its authority, MacKinnon

The ordinance said the city of about 5,600 people wants to end “discriminatory
practices against members of the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender
community” so that couples could have lasting and meaningful relationships
regardless of sexual orientation.

MacKinnon, who also has a private law practice, said he would take on the
anticipated state legal challenge at no charge to the city.

Bisbee resident and
retired attorney Margo McCartney, also offered her services, the Sierra Vista
Herald reported.

More than 100 people attended the council meeting, and the fire chief
eventually ordered some people outside after attendees began sitting on the

People then stood outside City Hall, gazing through open windows at the

“Change is coming, and for once, let’s be the first, not the last,” said
Bisbee resident Bree Holcomb, a supporter of the ordinance.

Resident Gayle Schasteen said many residents had been unaware the council was
considering the ordinance, which she called “against God’s law.”

Tom Holley, pastor of Bisbee’s Assembly of God church, said the council was
using tax dollars to push personal agendas in Bisbee and across Arizona.

“I’m not against these people. I’m against what they stand for, what they are
doing,” he said.

Resident Hywel Logan said he felt compelled to attend the meeting to support
the ordinance because critics were organizing against it.

“It seems ridiculous that I have to defend my relationship,” said Logan, who
is gay.

Arizona voters in 2008 approved a state constitutional ban on same-sex

However, two years earlier, voters rejected a broader version that
would have barred the state and local governments from creating or recognizing
“a legal status for unmarried persons that is similar to marriage.”


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