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Suit filed to allow same-sex marriage in Arizona

PHOENIX — A class-action lawsuit filed Monday by four Arizona couples is seeking to make same-sex marriage legal in Arizona.

The suit, which names Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, Attorney General Tom Horne and County Clerk Michael Jeanes as defendants, was filed by attorneys Shawn and Ellen Aiken. It claimed that a voter-approved ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

“The plaintiffs are asking that the court strike or reverse Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriage,” said Shawn Aiken. “Right now, the state constitution prohibits same-sex marriage.”

The suit would allow same-sex couples to be married and would recognize same-sex marriages conducted in other states.

“I think it is a game-changer in Arizona,” said Aiken. “I think most people expect that this issue will eventually be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

In the suit, the couples describe various hardships caused by the state for not recognizing their relationship. Most focus on medical treatments, but some have to do with custody over adopted children.

“They, in turn, represent some 40,000 to 45,000 couples here in Arizona,” said Aiken.

The suit also said that certain rights and benefits are denied to gay couples because the state does not recognize their marriage.

Some of the couples who filed the suit are legally married in other states.

“Two of the four couples that are plaintiffs were married in California,” said Aiken. “As the law stands in Arizona today, their valid California marriage is unrecognized in Arizona.”

In all, three male couples and one female couple filed. All are long-time Arizona residents. Two of the couples have adopted children.

“One of the important aspects of the lawsuit is to point out how unfair Arizona’s refusal to recognize out-of-state marriages or allow in-state marriages, how that affects not just couples, but whole families, and the effect it has on children,” said Aiken.

Last month, both New Mexico and Utah legalized gay marriage. However, the Supreme Court put a hold on same-sex marriage in Utah on Monday.

A Phoenix man married his partner on Dec. 20, the day a Utah judge struck down a state ban on same-sex marriage.

Should the plaintiffs win the case, Arizona would become the 19th state to recognize same-sex marriages.

Aiken said there are about 25 lawsuits filed in 15 states that are seeking the legalization of gay marriage. The class-action is the only suit in Arizona.

KTAR’s Martha Maurer contributed to this report.


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