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Same-sex marriages begin in Arizona

Arizona attorney general decides not to appeal federal judge's ruling that state ban is unconstitutional

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Rebecca Marie Sasnett and Rebecca Marie Sasnett | The Daily Wildcat

Lawrence Loussaert and Joseph Spoors sign their marriage certificate in front of the Arizona Superior Court in Pima County courthouse on Friday. Loussaert and Spoors have been together for 23 years.

When Chuck Gould and Michael Greenbaum heard the news that same-sex marriage was legal in Arizona, they rushed to Arizona Superior Court in Pima County in downtown Tucson Friday morning to get married. They have been together for nearly 24 years.

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

Same-sex couples in Arizona can now marry following Attorney General Tom Horne’s decision Friday 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, according to a statement released on Friday.

“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 his 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 Court Judge John Sedwick ruled Friday that the decision from the 9th 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 the similar bans were ruled unconstitutional because “they deny same-sex couples the equal protection of the law.”

With the decision made on Friday, Arizona has now become the 31st state to allow same-sex marriage in the U.S.

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

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,” he 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 there weren’t groups of people in opposition of the decision at the courthouse.

Laura Tenenholtz, a deputy clerk at Arizona Superior Court in Pima County, briefly took part in the celebration outside the court and said she has been with her partner for 11½ years.

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

Nancy Franklin-Hicks and Davin Franklin-Hicks were one of the first couples to go to the courthouse and receive their marriage licenses. They had a commitment ceremony in 2002, but said, lately, 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 Friday, because Davin Franklin-Hicks identified as a transgender man, but was still recognized as a woman by the state.

Newly married couples also look forward to the benefits they will receive now that the state recognizes their marriages.

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 have been together for 16 years before saying their vows today outside of Arizona Superior Court in Pima County. 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.

The UA is working with the Arizona Board of Regents to study how the ruling will affect benefits for employees at the university, said Allison Vaillancourt, vice president for human resources and institutional effectiveness at the UA, in an email.

The Arizona Department of Administration could require couples seeking benefits to marry by Jan. 1 in order to receive those benefits, or the ADOA could offer a grace period, Vaillancourt said.

“We will communicate the expected impact to our employees very soon, once we learn more,” Vaillancourt said.

Chris Sogge, 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 the LGBTQ 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 laws 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 came 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.

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