Same-sex marriages begin in Arizona

Appeared in the Daily Wildcat on Oct. 17, 2014. Written with Meghan Fernandez, Daily Wildcat news editor.

Same-sex couples in Arizona can now marry following Attorney General Tom Horne’s decision today not to appeal a federal judge’s ruling that Arizona’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.

Horne said his decision to not appeal the ruling was based on legal considerations and not policy.

“I have decided not to appeal today’s decision, which would be an exercise in futility, and which would serve only the purpose of wasting taxpayers’ money,” Horne said in a statement. “I am issuing a letter today to the 15 county clerks of court with the directive that based on today’s decision by the federal District Court, they can issue licenses for same-sex marriages immediately.”

U.S. District Judge John Sedwick ruled this morning that the decision from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that same-sex marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada were unconstitutional applied to Arizona, invalidating the state’s ban on same-sex marriage

Sedwick said in his ruling that the bans had been ruled unconstitutional because “they deny same-sex couples the equal protection of the law.”

With the decision today, Arizona now becomes the 31st state to allow same-sex marriage in the U.S.

Same-sex couples rushed to the Arizona Superior Court in Pima County in downtown Tucson to sign their marriage licenses. Religious leaders from local churches were waiting outside the courthouse to perform marriage ceremonies.

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 The Rev. Owen Chandler, senior minister at Saguaro Christian Church, said even if couples don’t come to the religious leaders for a wedding ceremony, they will still be there in support.

“We’re just happy to be the backdrop of the celebration,” Chandler said.

Chandler said “it just seemed surreal” when he first heard about the decision to strike down Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriage.

“To see it is actually really part of the full momentum of marriage equality,” Chandler said.

Chandler, along with other ministers from different local churches, had been outside the courthouse since they first heard the news about the federal judge’s decision. He also said he was surprised that there weren’t groups of people opposing the decision at the courthouse.

Laura Tenenholtz, a deputy clerk at the Arizona Superior Court in Pima County, briefly took part in the celebration outside the court and said she has been with her partner for more than 11 years.

“It’s about f*cking time,” Tenenholtz said.

Nancy Franklin-Hicks and Davin Franklin-Hicks were one of the first couples to get to the courthouse and receive their marriage licenses. They had a commitment ceremony in 2002 but said they were following the news closely to find out when Arizona would rule the same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional.

The two had not been able to marry prior to today because while Davin Franklin-Hicks identified as a transgender man, he was still recognized as a woman by the state.

Other Tucsonan same-sex couples included Chuck Gould and Michael Greenbaum. The two have been together for nearly 24 years and said they have been waiting for this day.

“I’m 76,” Greenbaum said. “I never thought I’d see the day.”

Greenbaum said one of the first things he plans to do as a married man is contact his accountant so he and Gould can file joint taxes.

Gould said he has lived in Tucson since 1967 and recalled the gay men he met back then who never thought this day would come and have passed away since.

“I always think about those guys who didn’t get married,” Gould said.

Robert Gordon and Stephen Kraynak had been together for 16 years before saying their vows today outside of the courthouse. Gordon and Kraynak met in Columbus, Ohio, at the Unitarian Universalist Church.

Gordon and Kraynak had a union ceremony at the church in Ohio in 2003, but it wasn’t state-recognized.

“So we’ve been waiting for this day for 10 years,” Gordon said.

Chris Sogge, a graduate assistant for LGBTQ Affairs at the UA, said the beginning of same-sex marriage in Arizona benefits faculty and students at the UA.

“Because as a state we’re recognizing marriage … that will end up bringing more acceptance of [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning] people and will then ripple through into the systems and into their own specific institution,” Sogge said.

Gov. Jan Brewer voiced her disapproval of the decision to strike down the state’s same-sex marriage ban. In a statement, she said the courts have “thwarted the will of the people.”

“It is not only disappointing, but also deeply troubling that unelected federal judges can dictate the law of individual states,” Brewer said.

Earlier this year, Brewer vetoed a religious freedom bill known as SB 1062 that critics derided as discriminatory against LGBTQ people.

The decision also comes on the last day of Coming Out Week at the UA, which brings visibility to resources available to the LGBTQ community at the university.

— Joey Fisher contributed reporting to this article.

View on dailywildcat.com here

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