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Same-sex marriages (SSM) and LGBT rights In Arizona.

Part 1:

2003: The Lawrence v. Texas decision by the
U.S. Supreme Court.  2003: The first lawsuit
in Arizona fails to achieve marriage equality.

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Throughout this web site, the acronym "LGBT" refers to
Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transgender persons.

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2003-JUN-26: The U.S. Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v. Texas:

In late 2003-JUN, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Lawrence v. Texas. This case involved a Texan law that had criminalized certain consensual. private sexual behaviors by same-sex couples. The same behaviors were quite legal if performed by a consenting male and female adult in private. It was an unusually broad ruling with many ramifications. Not only did it declare a Texas anti-sodomy law unconstitutional, but it invalidated all remaining state anti-sodomy laws across the U.S. Further, it severely restricted the ability of states to enforce morality through legislation. The minority report by Justice Antonin Scalia warned that other lawsuits would build on the Lawrence v. Texas decision. He wrote:

"The court has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda. ... The court has taken sides in the culture war....This reasoning leaves on shaky, pretty shaky grounds, state laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples."

Justice Scalia wrote that the majority Justices pretended that they have left enough freedom in their ruling:

"... so that we need not fear judicial imposition of homosexual marriage, as has recently occurred in Canada. ... Do not believe it...[The majority opinion in this case] dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned." More details.

His prediction may soon come to fruition. On 2013-MAY-01 to 05, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press conducted a poll, indicating that 72% of American adults believe that legal recognition of same-sex marriage across the entire country is "inevitable." 6

This ruling represents a watershed in the movement towards LGBT equality and same-sex marriage. It is difficult to see how much movement could be made towards marriage equality as long as same-gender sexual behavior was a criminal act in some states.

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2003-JUL-07: The first attempt to achieve marriage equality in Arizona fails:

On 2003-JUL-01, Harold Donald Standhardt, 34, and Tod Alan Keltner, 36 or 37 (sources differ), -- a gay couple -- applied for and were refused a marriage license. They filed a special action on JUL-05 with the Arizona Court of Appeals, asking that the state marriage law -- which restricts marriage to the union of one man and one woman -- be declared unconstitutional. Defendants are the State of Arizona and Michael K. Jeanes, the clerk of Maricopa County Superior Court who refused to issue the license. According to their lawsuit, Standhardt and Keltner:

"... have been in [a] committed relationship for over six years and have lived together and resided in Maricopa County for over five years." 1

They own a travel agency together. The lawsuit asserts that the 1996 ban on gay marriages violates various state and federal constitutional protections, including the Arizona Constitution's right to privacy. Standhardt commented:

"We have the same basic rights as any other couple."

Clearly, they do not or they would have been able to marry. Still, a good case can be made that they should be able to marry because of the due process and equal protection clauses in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. These clauses require the federal and state governments to treat people equally. By extension, these clauses imply that couples should be treated equally, independent of the partners' sexual orientation or gender.

Normally, lawsuits begin at a lower trial court and are later appealed to the the state's Court of Appeals. However, the latter court can accept lawsuits directly. They have chosen to do so in this case. This case is similar to other lawsuits in Massachusetts and New Jersey which also seek to expand the definition of marriage to include all committed, loving couples -- both opposite-sex and same-sex. The fundamentalist Christian legal group, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), filed a brief, arguing that the plaintiffs:

"vastly exaggerate the significance of last month's privacy ruling [in Lawrence v. Texas] and notes the Supreme Court repeatedly has upheld marriage as the union of one man and one woman." 2

"The plaintiffs claim that the ... Supreme Court decision held that homosexuals have a 'privacy' right to marriage." 2

They also referred to a 2002 decision by the Arizona Supreme Court in a case concerning state funding for abortions for poor women. The court decided that the state could not enact laws that grant any citizen privileges while denying them to others.

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Kathleen McCarthy, a local lawyer and specialist in family-law said she believed the "Lawrence" U.S. Supreme Court decision will give a boost to the lawsuits. She said:

"It will ease the ability to challenge these lawsuits." 3

Kent Burbank, executive director of Wingspan -- a gay-positive group said:

"Many of us are concerned about the backlash."

He added that a same-sex test lawsuit should be carefully chosen so that it has the maximum chance of winning. 4

Attorney Len Munsil, president of The Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative group opposing marriage equality, said:

"We have said all along that gay marriage was the goal, and now there is an effort to bring it to Arizona. Despite the Supreme Court‚€™s claim to the contrary, their decision in Lawrence will open the floodgates for this type of litigation." 5

Even with the support provided by Lawrence v. Texas, the plaintiffs lost at the Circuit Court. The leap to same-sex marriage was launched too early, and in a relatively conservative state. Same-sex marriage was not to come to a U.S. state until it became legal in one of the country's most liberal states, Massachusetts, in 2004.

The Center for Arizona Policy (CAP) is part of a 50-state partnership associated with the fundamentalist Christian group, Focus on the Family. In an interview with the Tucson Observer, Munsil said:

"Marriage is not an institution created by American law. It has multiple thousands of years of being a relationship between a man and a woman. We're looking at discarding that in one generation." 4

His prophecy may come true. In late 2013-JUN ten years to the day after the Lawrence v. Texas ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling in Windsor v. United States. It overturned Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and required the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages that had been legally solemnized in various states. This gave legally married same-sex couples, and their children, access to 1,138 federal programs, protections, and benefits that previously were restricted to married opposite-sex couples. The reasoning behind this ruling provided subsequent judges with excellent arguments in favor of marriage equality.

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Discussion of same-sex marriage in Arizona continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Ariz. gay couple sues to overturn marriage ban," Associated Press, at:
  2. "Razing Arizona," Washington Update, Family Research Council, 2003-JUL-23.
  3. Carol Sowers, "Suit challenges state law against gay marriage," AZCentral, 2003-JUL-15, at:
  4. "Lawsuit challenges Arizona's ban on gay marriage," Tucson Observer, at: This appears to be a temporary article.
  5. "Two men seek to be married in Arizona," News release, The Center for Arizona Policy, 2003-JUL-14, at:
  6. Poll: Gay Marriage Viewed As 'Inevitable' By Most Americans, Huffington Post, 2013-JUN-06, at:

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Copyright © 2003 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2014-FEB-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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