Lawyer hopes Arizona marriage suit gets decided in 2014
PHOENIX -- An attorney who filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn Arizona's same-sex marriage ban said Tuesday he hopes to get a decision from a federal judge before the U.S. Supreme Court rules on any similar challenge from another state.
The lawsuit filed by four same-sex couples who live in Arizona came Monday as the U.S. Supreme Court halted same-sex marriages in Utah while a federal appeals court considers the long-term question of whether gay couples have a right to wed in that state.
The nation's highest court didn't rule on the merits of the Utah case or on same-sex marriage bans in general, but is expected to eventually decide the issue.
Attorney Shawn Aiken said he hopes to get a decision this year in his clients' challenge to the Arizona law and believes the U.S. Supreme Court wouldn't likely resolve the issue until 2015.
"In the meantime, I've got clients, people who want to get this issue resolved in Arizona," Aiken said. "That's why they filed."
Lawmakers approved a state law barring same-sex marriages in 1996. Seven years later, an Arizona appeals court upheld the constitutionality of the law. Voters in 2008 amended the Arizona Constitution to include a ban.
The case was filed against Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Attorney General Tom Horne. Their offices declined to comment.
Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, which led a coalition of groups that pushed for the 2008 law, said gay marriage proponents are turning to the courts for relief even though Arizona voters have already let their wishes be known.
The lawsuit alleges Arizona's ban on gay marriage violates equal-protection and due-process rights. The couples who filed the lawsuit said the state law wrongfully denies them the benefits associated with marriage, such as spousal pension benefits, spousal survivorship rights and the ability to make medical decisions for each other.
The lawsuit also seeks class-action status that would open the case to other Arizonans and to people who want their same-sex marriage from another state to be recognized in Arizona.