PHOENIX — An attorney who filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn Arizona’s
same-sex marriage ban said Tuesday he hopes to get a decision from a federal judge
before the U.S. Supreme Court rules on any similar challenge from another state.
The lawsuit filed by four same-sex couples who live in Arizona came Monday as
the U.S. Supreme Court halted same-sex marriages in Utah while a federal appeals
court considers the long-term question of whether gay couples have a right to
wed in that state.
The nation’s highest court didn’t rule on the merits of the Utah case or on
same-sex marriage bans in general, but is expected to eventually decide the
Attorney Shawn Aiken said he hopes to get a decision this year in his clients’
challenge to the Arizona law and believes the U.S. Supreme Court wouldn’t likely
resolve the issue until 2015.
“In the meantime, I’ve got clients, people who want to get this issue resolved
in Arizona,” Aiken said. “That’s why they filed.”
Lawmakers approved a state law barring same-sex marriages in 1996. Seven years
later, an Arizona appeals court upheld the constitutionality of the law. Voters
in 2008 amended the Arizona Constitution to include a ban.
The case was filed against Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Attorney General Tom
Horne. Their offices declined to comment.
Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, which led a coalition
of groups that pushed for the 2008 law, said gay marriage proponents are turning
to the courts for relief even though Arizona voters have already let their
wishes be known.
The lawsuit alleges Arizona’s ban on gay marriage violates equal-protection and
due-process rights. The couples who filed the lawsuit said the state law
wrongfully denies them the benefits associated with marriage, such as spousal
pension benefits, spousal survivorship rights and the ability to make medical
decisions for each other.
The lawsuit also seeks class-action status that would open the case to other
Arizonans and to people who want their same-sex marriage from another state to
be recognized in Arizona.