Tucson, Ariz. – Two years after Arizona voters shot down a constitutional marriage amendment, they may be asked to vote on it again – this time on a much narrower piece of legislation.
On Feb. 11, leaders of the state’s House and Senate introduced a new piece of legislation aimed at putting the issue on the ballot this November. Unlike the 2006 amendment, the new measure leaves out a controversial clause that would prevent governments from allowing domestic partnerships (for gay and straight couples), which are recognized in several Arizona cities and counties.
House Speaker Jim Weiers, R-Phoenix, told The Arizona Republic he was confident the revised measure would pass this time.
”All those other issues have been taken out,” said Weiers, who is the lead sponsor on the House’s version of the law. Senate president and congressional candidate Tim Bee, R-Tucson, has sponsored the Senate version.
Both versions say that “only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as marriage in this state.” So far, 15 of the Senate’s 16 Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors, as have all but two of the House’s Republican Representatives.
One who refused to sign on was Rep. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale.
“I think we've got a lot of bigger issues to do,” she told the Arizona Daily Star, noting that gay marriage is already illegal in the state. However, Regan said she would likely vote for the measure if it comes up for vote.
Although Arizona law already forbids gay marriage, Weiers said that a constitutional change is necessary to prevent such laws from being challenged in court.
Senate and House Democrats have called the mostly Republican-backed measures unnecessary and a GOP “political ploy.”
“This is their attempt to raise the turnout in November, and who is the lucky recipient of the ultraconservative movement? This is about getting out the base. They get out their base by … promoting fear and hate instead of compassion and inclusion and understanding,” said Sen. Paula Aboud, D-Tucson, an openly lesbian lawmaker who has introduced a bill that seeks to create state-recognized domestic partnerships.
In 2006, Arizona became the first state to defeat a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman. Under the opposition campaign Arizona Together gays and straights – including heterosexual retirees – united against the measure, Proposition 107. As part of their strategy they ran commercials that focused entirely on medical decisions, not gay marriage.
Ultimately, Proposition 107, failed by a narrow margin of 52 percent to 48 percent.
Although Cathi Herrod, executive director of the Center for Arizona Policy, which lead the fight for Proposition 107, said that the new legislation would leave the issue of domestic partner benefits alone, gay rights activists have still called the measure divisive.
”They are trying to divide the state on a moral issue,” said Sam Holdren, public affairs director of Equality Arizona.