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Judge strikes down Arizona ban on gay marriage, licenses to be issued immediately

PHOENIX — The final obstacle standing in the way of equal marriage rights for Arizonans fell on Friday, as a federal judge ruled Arizona’s laws preventing same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.

A few hours later, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said he would order clerks to begin issuing marriage certificates to couples.

The decision follows days of suspense, after U.S. District Judge John Sedwick previously issued an order for the two parties in the lawsuits challenging Arizona’s law to file briefs arguing why or why not the earlier decision of the 9th Circuit is or is not applicable to Arizona.

“A stay of this decision to allow defendants to appeal is not warranted. It is
clear that an appeal to the 9th Circuit would not succeed. It is also clear …
that the High Court will turn a deaf ear on any request for relief from the 9th
Circuit’s decision,” Sedwick said.

Sedwick, who was nominated to the federal bench in 1992 by President George
H.W. Bush, ordered the state to “permanently cease” its ban on gay marriage
and declined to stay his order.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton called the day “historic” for the state and later tweeted:

In a press release, Gov. Jan Brewer said she was disappointed an unelected judge has the power to strike down state laws.

“Simply put, courts should not be in the business of making and changing laws based on their personal agendas,” the release said. “It is not the role of the judiciary to determine that same-sex marriages should be allowed. Historically and traditionally, that power belongs to the states, and to the people. If society wants to recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions, that decision should be made through our elected representatives or at the ballot — not the courts.”

Despite personally disagreeing with the ruling, Horne said appealing the case would be “an exercise in futility” because the chances of the 9th Circuit Court overturning its own ruling are “zero.”

“The only purpose of filing the appeal is wasting the taxpayers’ money,” he said in a press conference.

Horne had received thousands of petitions encouraging him to drop the state’s enforcement of the 1996 law. Voters approved a constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage in 2008.

Couples began tying the knot less than one hour after Horne gave permission.

The Arizona decision came after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Oct.
7 that gay marriage prohibitions in Nevada and Idaho violated the
equal-protection rights of same-sex couples.

The mayor’s office in Phoenix said judges would be available to “marry all couples with licenses” at his office Friday afternoon.

Friday, the federal government announced it would recognize same-sex marriages in seven more states — Colorado, Indiana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin and Utah. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear appeals from several states
seeking to retain their bans on same-sex marriage.

The bans have been falling in conservative states for weeks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.