Recognition of same-sex unions in Arizona

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Legal recognition of
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The U.S. state of Arizona has denied marriage rights to same-sex couples by statute since 1996 and by an amendment to its state constitution approved by voters in 1998. Two lawsuits in federal court have challenged the state's policies. Another suit challenges the state's denial of benefits to the same-sex partners of state employees.

Several Arizona cities and towns have provided civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Same-sex marriage[edit]


In 1996, the Arizona state legislators passed a ban on same-sex marriage and the recognition of same-sex marriages performed outside of the state. Republican Governor Fife Symington, whose victory in the 1994 election was based in part on campaigning against his opponent's support of same-sex marriage,[1] signed the bill into law.[2]

Constitutional ban[edit]

Arizona voters have twice considered amendments to the state constitution that would deny marriage rights to same-sex couples. In November 2006, voters defeated Proposition 107, which would have banned same-sex marriage and any legal status similar to marriage, by a margin of 48.2% to 51.8%,[3] departing from the national trend that saw seven other states approve similar constitutional amendments the same day. [4] In November 2008, voters approved Proposition 102, which defines a valid marriage in Arizona as the union of one man and one woman, by 56.2% to 43.8%.[5]

Initiative to repeal constitutional ban[edit]

On June 17, 2013, Equal Marriage Arizona filed an initiative to present voters with an amendment that would substitute a gender-neutral definition of marriage in place of the one added to the state constitution in 2008. It needed to gather 259,213 valid signatures by July 3, 2014, to have the initiative appear on that November's ballot.[6][7] The group suspended its efforts in September 2013, announcing that "The various LGBT advocacy groups in the state and nationally announced they weren't going to throw their support behind the initiative. Without their help, we aren't able to do it." Other groups contended that 2016, a presidential election year, would prove a better opportunity.[8]

Federal lawsuits[edit]

There are two lawsuits regarding the recognition of same-sex marriage pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona:

Connolly v. Roche[edit]

This case was originally Connolly v. Brewer.

On January 6, 2014, in Connolly v. Roche, four same-sex couples filed a class-action lawsuit in district court seeking to have Arizona's definition of marriage ruled unconstitutional. Two of the plaintiff couples were married in California and two have adopted children through Arizona's public foster-care system. The amended complaint names as defendants three county court clerks acting in their official capacities and adds two couples from the Flagstaff area and one couple from the Tucson area for a total of seven couples.[9]

Majors v. Jeanes[edit]

On March 13, Lambda Legal filed a suit in the same court on behalf of seven same-sex couples and a widow and a widower, each the surviving spouse of a same-sex couple. Several are the parents of minor children and most married in other states, including California, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, and Washington. The case, originally Majors v. Horne,[10] is Majors v. Jeanes, with the Clerk of the Superior Court of Maricopa County named as the lead defendant.

State lawsuits[edit]

Beatie v. Beatie[edit]

On August 13, 2014, Division One of the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that Arizona's constitutional and statutory bans on same-sex marriage did not prevent the trial court from granting a divorce in a case in which one of the spouses was a transgendered individual and had been married in a jurisdiction which had recognized their marriage as consisting of the union of one man and one woman.[11]

Same-sex unions[edit]

Map of Arizona cities and counties that offer civil unions or domestic partner benefits in particular cities.
  City offers unions granting rights similar to marriage
  City offers legislation granting domestic partnership
  County-wide partner benefits through domestic partnership
  State grants benefits to state employees
  No specific recognition of same-sex marriages or unions in state law

There have been several proposals to promote a voter initiative legalizing civil unions by groups of private citizens, including one gay rights activist from the United Kingdom.[12][13] Polls have indicated that a measure creating the status civil union statewide would have a high likelihood of passage. In 2010, Equality Arizona, which opposes such a "separate-but-equal" status, announced it was considering other ways to respond to the passage of Arizona Proposition 102.[12]

State employee benefits[edit]

Arizona began providing benefits to same-sex partners of state employees since 2008.[14] A 2009 statute made domestic partners of state employees ineligible for health benefits, but a group of state employees in same-sex relationships persuaded a federal District Court to issue an injunction preventing the law from taking effect. The statute and that injunction remain the subject of an ongoing lawsuit, Diaz v. Brewer.[15]

Local civil unions[edit]

On June 4, 2013, the Bisbee City Council approved an ordinance legalizing civil unions for same-sex couples; it took effect 30 days later.[16] Several other Arizona cities are considering similar civil union ordinances.[17] On June 19, 2013, the Tucson City Council unanimously approved a civil unions ordinance.[18] On July 5, the first civil union was established in Bisbee.[19]

The councils of several towns and cities followed Bisbee and Tucson in adopting a civil union ordinance: Jerome on July 30,[20] Sedona on September 24,[21] Clarkdale on November 12[22] and Cottonwood on December 17.[23] A proposal for such an ordinance failed in Camp Verde.[24]

Local domestic partnerships[edit]

The cities of Phoenix,[25] Scottsdale,[25] Tempe,[25] and Tucson,[25] along with Pima County[25] offer domestic partnerships.

Public opinion[edit]

A 2003 poll conducted by Northern Arizona University showed that 53% of Arizonans supported same-sex civil unions, though 54% oppose allowing same-sex couples to marry. However, 52% of Arizonans believe that same-sex marriages conducted abroad in regions where such unions are legal should be recognized as marriage in the state of Arizona.[26]

A November 2011 Public Policy Polling survey found that 44% of Arizona voters supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, while 45% opposed it and 12% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 72% of respondents supported legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 40% supporting same-sex marriage, 32% supporting civil unions, 27% opposing all legal recognition and 1% not sure.[27]

An April 2013 Rocky Mountain poll found that 55% of Arizona voters supported same-sex marriage, 35% were opposed and 10% were unsure.[28]

A February 2014 PPP poll found that 49% thought same-sex marriage should be legal in Arizona, 41% did not and 10% were undecided.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The 1994 Elections: State by State". New York Times. November 10, 1994. Retrieved September 3, 2014. 
  2. ^ Raasch, Chuck (November 19, 2003). "Gay marriage debate likely to play role in ’04 elections". Tucson Citizen. Retrieved September 1, 2014. 
  3. ^ Geis, Sonya (November 20, 2006). "New Tactic In Fighting Marriage Initiatives". Washington Post. Retrieved September 1, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Elections 2006". CNN. 
  5. ^ "States issue verdicts on gay rights, abortion". MSNBC. November 5, 2008. Retrieved September 1, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Initiative seeks to legalize gay marriage in Arizona". Arizona Daily Star. June 18, 2013. Retrieved September 1, 2014. 
  7. ^ Equal Marriage Arizona
  8. ^ Rau, Alia Beard (September 10, 2013). "Same-sex marriage won't be on 2014 ballot". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved September 1, 2014. 
  9. ^ Rau, Alia Beard (January 6, 2014). "Suit filed to allow same-sex marriages in Arizona". AZ Central. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  10. ^ del Puerto, Luige (March 13, 2014). "Same-sex couples in Arizona file suit over state gay marriage bann". Reuters. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b Shainker, Andrew J. (December 11, 2008). "Effort to get same-sex civil unions on Az ballot planned". Tucson Citizen. Retrieved September 4, 2014. 
  13. ^ "Rainbow Foot Soldiers Statement on Arizona Civil Partnerships Initiative". Press Release Point. March 8, 2009. Retrieved September 4, 2014. 
  14. ^ National Conference of State Legislatures: "States offering benefits for same-sex partners of state employees", accessed April 16, 2011
  15. ^ MetroWeekly: Chris Geidner, "Ninth Circuit Keeps Arizona Law Ending Same-Sex Partner Health Benefits on Hold," September 6, 2011, accessed July 8, 2012
  16. ^ "Bisbee council approves civil unions proposal". June 5, 2013. 
  17. ^ "Bisbee council advances new civil unions measure". May 22, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Tucson becomes second Arizona city to allow same-sex civil unions". LGBTQ Nation. June 19, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Bisbee Same Sex partners file for formal Civil Union". KGUN9. July 5, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Jerome approves civil unions". The Camp Verde Bugle. August 29, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Sedona approves local ordinance on civil unions". AZCentral. September 25, 2013. 
  22. ^ "Civil unions pass unanimously in Clarkdale". Verde Independent. November 13, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Cottonwood approves same-sex civil unions". KPHO. December 18, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Civil unions rejected by Camp Verde council". The Bulge. February 6, 2014. 
  25. ^ a b c d e Governments Offering Benefits
  26. ^ Gay and Lesbian Civil Unions Supported in Arizona; Same-Sex Couples Should Be Allowed Benefits
  27. ^ AZ pro-civil unions, remembers Goldwater fondly
  28. ^ Poll: Majority In Arizona Backs Gay Marriage
  29. ^ Arizona voters support Brewer veto, legalizing gay marriage