Same-sex marriage in Arizona

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Same-sex marriage has been legally recognized in Arizona since October 17, 2014. The state had denied marriage rights to same-sex couples by statute since 1996 and by an amendment to its state constitution approved by voters in 2008. Two lawsuits in federal court that challenged the state's policies ended with a decision that the ban was unconstitutional and the state did not appeal that ruling. On November 18, 2014, the state appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit, citing the possibility of recouping costs it had been required to pay should the U.S. Supreme Court ruling uphold the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans.

Before the court ruling, several Arizona cities and towns provided civil unions or domestic partnerships to same-sex couples.

Same-sex marriage[edit]


In 1975, the Arizona State Legislature passed an emergency bill defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman after the Arizona Supreme Court invalidated a same-sex marriage license granted to a couple.[1][2]

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,[3] signed the bill into law.[4]


Arizona voters have twice considered amendments to the state constitution that would deny marriage rights to same-sex couples. On November 7, 2006, voters defeated Proposition 107, a state initiated constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage and any legal status similar to marriage, by a margin of 48.2% to 51.8%,[5] departing from the national trend that saw seven other states approve similar constitutional amendments the same day. [6]

On May 12, 2008, the Arizona House of Representatives voted 33 to 25 in favor of Proposition 102, a constitutional amendment which defines a valid marriage in Arizona as the union of one man and one woman. On June 25, 2008, the Arizona State Senate, by a vote of 14 to 11 in favor, passed the amendment. On November 4, 2008, Arizona voters passed Proposition 102 by a vote of 56.2% in favor to 43.8% against.[7][8]

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.[9][10] 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.[11]


Federal court[edit]

There were two lawsuits regarding the recognition of same-sex marriage in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. Both were consolidated by U.S. District Judge John W. Sedwick, who ruled in favour of a right to same-sex marriage:

Connolly v. Jeanes[edit]

On January 6, 2014, in Connolly v. Jeans, originally Connolly v. Brewer, 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.[12]

Majors v. Horne[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 is Majors v. Horne.[13] On September 12, U.S. District Judge John Sedgwick ordered that the state record a death certificate for plaintiff George Martinez as the husband of Fred McQuire.[14]

District court ruling in both cases[edit]

On October 17, 2014, U.S. District Judge John W. Sedwick, ruling in both cases, declared Arizona's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional and enjoined the state from enforcing its ban, effective immediately. Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said the state would not appeal the ruling and instructed county clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.[15][16]


On November 18, Arizona announced it would appeal the district court ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The state solicitor, Robert Ellman, said the state hoped to avoid paying the original plaintiffs' attorneys fees should the U.S. Supreme Court uphold bans on same-sex marriage.[17] On December 1, all parties asked the court to suspend proceedings pending action by the U.S. Supreme Court in similar cases from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.[18] The Ninth Circuit agreed to that request the next day, suspending proceedings until March 25, 2015.[19]

State court[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 transgender individual and had been married in a jurisdiction which had recognized their marriage as consisting of the union of one man and one woman.[20]

Public opinion[edit]

Public opinion for same-sex marriage in Arizona
Poll source Date(s)
Margin of
 % support  % opposition  % no opinion
Public Religion Research Institute 4/2/2014-1/4/2015 952 ± 0.5% 58% 33% 9%
New York Times/CBS News/YouGov September 20–October 1, 2014 2,808 likely voters ± 2.6% 47% 40% 13%
Public Policy Polling February 28-March 2, 2014 870 voters ± 3.3% 49% 41% 10%
Rocky Mountain Poll April 3–16, 2013 700 households ± 3.8% 55% 35% 10%
Public Policy Polling November 17–20, 2011 500 voters ± 4.4% 44% 45% 12%
Northern Arizona University February–March, 2004 410 residents ± ?% - 60% -
Northern Arizona University October 3–20, 2003 610 random residents ± 4% 42% 54% -

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.[21][22] 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.[21]

State employee benefits[edit]

Arizona began providing benefits to same-sex partners of state employees since 2008.[23] 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 were the subject of a lawsuit, Diaz v. Brewer.[24] The Ninth Circuit affirmed the injunction and the Supreme Court rejected certiorari on June 27, 2013. The Ninth Circuit certified the lawsuit as a class action in December 2013, allowing the injunction to cover all similarly situated couples.

Diaz v. Brewer[edit]

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.[25] Several other Arizona cities are considering similar civil union ordinances.[26] On June 19, 2013, the Tucson City Council unanimously approved a civil unions ordinance.[27] On July 5, the first civil union was established in Bisbee.[28]

The councils of several towns and cities followed Bisbee and Tucson in adopting a civil union ordinance: Jerome on July 30,[29] Sedona on September 24,[30] Clarkdale on November 12[31] and Cottonwood on December 17.[32] A proposal for such an ordinance failed in Camp Verde.[33]

Local domestic partnerships[edit]

The cities of Flagstaff,[34] Phoenix,[35] Scottsdale,[35] Tempe,[35] and Tucson,[35] along with Pima County[35] offer domestic partnerships. The city of Mesa recognizes domestic partners of city employees provided that they "have executed a domestic partner affidavit satisfactory to [the city]."[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Modern United States
  2. ^ The Evolution of Same-Sex Marriage Laws
  3. ^ "The 1994 Elections: State by State". New York Times. November 10, 1994. Retrieved September 3, 2014. 
  4. ^ Raasch, Chuck (November 19, 2003). "Gay marriage debate likely to play role in '04 elections". Tucson Citizen. Retrieved September 1, 2014. 
  5. ^ Geis, Sonya (November 20, 2006). "New Tactic In Fighting Marriage Initiatives". Washington Post. Retrieved September 1, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Elections 2006". CNN. 
  7. ^ "States issue verdicts on gay rights, abortion". MSNBC. November 5, 2008. Retrieved September 1, 2014. 
  8. ^ SCR1042
  9. ^ "Initiative seeks to legalize gay marriage in Arizona". Arizona Daily Star. June 18, 2013. Retrieved September 1, 2014. 
  10. ^ Equal Marriage Arizona
  11. ^ Rau, Alia Beard (September 10, 2013). "Same-sex marriage won't be on 2014 ballot". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved September 1, 2014. 
  12. ^ Rau, Alia Beard (January 6, 2014). "Suit filed to allow same-sex marriages in Arizona". AZ Central. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  13. ^ del Puerto, Luige (March 13, 2014). "Same-sex couples in Arizona file suit over state gay marriage ban". Reuters. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  14. ^ Richey, Warren (September 12, 2014). "US judge orders Arizona to list same-sex spouse on death certificate". Alaska Dispatch News. Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved September 23, 2014. 
  15. ^ Westfall, Julie; Queally, James (October 17, 2014). "Arizona's gay marriage ban struck down, AG will not appeal". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 17, 2014. 
  16. ^ Pitzl, Mary Jo (October 18, 2014). "First gay marriages performed in Arizona". USA Today. Retrieved November 8, 2014. 
  17. ^ Fischer, Howard (November 18, 2014). "State looks to cut cost of gay marriage court fight". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved November 18, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Parties' Stipulated Motion to stay 9th Circuit appeal". U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Retrieved December 1, 2014. 
  19. ^ "Order". U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. December 2, 2014. 
  20. ^ The Honourable Douglas Gerlach, Judge (August 13, 2014). "In re the Matter of: Thomas T. Beatie, Petitioner/Appellant v. Nancy J. Beatie, Respondent/Appellee" (PDF). Arizona Court of Appeals: Division One. Retrieved November 8, 2014. 
  21. ^ 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. 
  22. ^ "Rainbow Foot Soldiers Statement on Arizona Civil Partnerships Initiative". Press Release Point. March 8, 2009. Retrieved September 4, 2014. 
  23. ^ National Conference of State Legislatures: "States offering benefits for same-sex partners of state employees", accessed April 16, 2011
  24. ^ MetroWeekly: Chris Geidner, "Ninth Circuit Keeps Arizona Law Ending Same-Sex Partner Health Benefits on Hold," September 6, 2011, accessed July 8, 2012
  25. ^ "Bisbee council approves civil unions proposal". June 5, 2013. 
  26. ^ "Bisbee council advances new civil unions measure". May 22, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Tucson becomes second Arizona city to allow same-sex civil unions". LGBTQ Nation. June 19, 2013. 
  28. ^ "Bisbee Same Sex partners file for formal Civil Union". KGUN9. July 5, 2013. 
  29. ^ "Jerome approves civil unions". The Camp Verde Bugle. August 29, 2013. 
  30. ^ "Sedona approves local ordinance on civil unions". AZCentral. September 25, 2013. 
  31. ^ "Civil unions pass unanimously in Clarkdale". Verde Independent. November 13, 2013. 
  32. ^ "Cottonwood approves same-sex civil unions". KPHO. December 18, 2013. 
  33. ^ "Civil unions rejected by Camp Verde council". The Bulge. February 6, 2014. 
  34. ^ "City of Flagstaff Official Website - City Clerk". Retrieved 2017-03-08. 
  35. ^ a b c d e Governments Offering Benefits
  36. ^ "All Eligible Employees electing the 8/8/26 Plan". 2017. Retrieved March 8, 2017.