ABC News reports that a federal judge has cleared the way for legally recognized same-sex unions in Arizona. The ruling Friday by U.S. District Judge John Sedwick bars officials from enforcing a 1996 state law outlawing gay marriage, as well as a 2008 voter-approved constitutional amendment that does the same.
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.
The reasoning behind the ruling was that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had already ruled similarly in Nevada and Idaho, providing a legal precedent.
Jennifer Pizer, an attorney for the plaintiffs, declared the ruling a monumental victory for gay rights, saying:
Some of our couples have been waiting decades. Their happy day has come, and we hope that Arizona embraces this decision and allows same sex couples to enjoy their constitutional rights here in Arizona.
Pizer is a member of the Lambda Legal law firm.
According to AZCentral, the ball is now in the court of Attorney General Tom Horne, who must decide whether he will appeal or comply and instruct county clerks to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples. It is widely expected that he will take the latter course. The only question now is when.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court surprised observers by failing to overturn lower court rulings that struck down gay marriage in five states. A day later, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court, which has jurisdiction over Arizona, found gay marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada were unconstitutional, Reuters reports.
It is worth noting that Arizona Proposition 102, known by its supporters as the Marriage Protection Amendment, was on the ballot in Arizona in November 4, 2008 as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, and was approved. Prior to passage of that initiative, marriage had been defined as between one man and one woman.