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Arizona May Get Third Shot At Voting On Marriage Equality

Flag_of_Arizona.svgBy the court, by the legislature or by the ballot box- it appears that marriage equality bans are in the crosshairs these days. Arizona may be the next state to get a chance to overturn their ban on same-sex marriage thanks to a Phoenix businessman, Warren Meyer, and a retired Tuscon attorney, Erin Simpson. They have filed the paperwork to put the issue to a vote in 2014.

The ballot initiative would allow voters to overturn the 2008-voter approved amendment banning same-sex marriage in that state and define marriage as being between any “two persons”. The measure spells out that no religious organization will be required to officiate or solumnize any particular marriage “in violation of its constitutional right to free exercise of religion.”

It would be the third time that Arizonans would have voted on the issue. Their first attempt to ban same-sex marriage way back in 2006 was voted down. It was approved four years later by a 56 to 44 margin. Backers need 259,213 signatures by 3 July 2014 to get the initiative onto the ballot in 2014. Simpson hopes to get around 400,000 signatures. The 2006 initiative was broader and covered both same-sex marriages and civil unions.

Meyer notes that the polling data is swinging towards same-sex marriage in his state, and that Arizonans now have the example of twelve other states and the District of Columbia to guide them on how this measure will affect them. He said “we see how that’s working out for them,. I think it’s working well. And I think that gives people increased confidence to bring equal marriage to Arizona.”

Still, not everyone is impressed. Cathi Herrod, the president for the anti-gay group Center for Arizona Policy, said she is not impressed with polling numbers. She said “The vote that counts is the vote at the ballot box. All the talk about whether attitudes have changed about marriage definition or same-sex marriage is just that, it’s talk. We will be prepared to work with our allies to preserve Arizona’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as only the union of one man and one woman.” Her group led the effort to ban same-sex marriage in 2008.

However, six years have seen a lot of changes in the nation. In 2012, Washington State, Maryland, and Maine did the previously impossible in that they were able to uphold or pass same-sex marriage through the ballot box. In Minnesota, they did what had not been done since the first time Arizona voted on banning same-sex marriage and that is defeat a anti-marriage equality amendment. Minnesota has since gone on to legalize same-sex marriage.

According to Simpson, Equal Marriage Arizona is hoping to build a broad-based coalition and not just rely upon traditional gay-rights groups. She is, herself, a Republican, and Meyer is a Libertarian. They are hoping to bring in a Democrat to co-chair the repeal efforts with Meyer.

Simpson noted that “We’re reaching out to everyone. We think this is an issue that crosses ideologies and orientation.”

Meyer added to that “The one challenge we have is obviously it’s expensive.”

Estimates are that it will take millions to not only drum up the signatures, but also fund the campaign. According to Meyer, the group already has financial commitments from several sources that will be disclosed when the time comes.

Funding may not be as huge an issue as Meyer and Simpson fear. Recent battles over same-sex marriage have shown that the LGBT groups have the upper hand on that one. In Minnesota, the groups behind the effort to keep the ban on same-sex marriage were only able to spend about $200,000 on lobbying while their opponents spent $2 million.

Meyer wanted to time this announcement with the issuing of a ruling regarding California’s Prop 8 out of the US Supreme Court. He had thought that the ruling would come on Monday, but it has not. He is certain that the Court will issue a narrow ruling on the issue, though it should be noted that, if they do issue a broad ruling, it could result in the taking down of every single marriage ban in the nation.

Simpson was adamant about pushing marriage equality over civil unions saying “I think it’s about equality. The only way to have equality is to have the same kind of legally recognized rights, responsibilities, obligations. What we’re finding is that civil unions aren’t exactly the same thing.”

Still, Harrod doesn’t believe that same-sex marriage being approved elsewhere is going to help. She stated “As we’ve seen in other states, when marriage is redefined, other rights are threatened including religious liberty rights.” She also doesn’t feel that the protections in the bill for religions is going to be enough wanting, in all likelihood, language that will allow people to discriminate as they want.



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