Lawsuit Filed in Arizona Challenges Gay Marriage Ban

Four couples in Arizona filed a class action lawsuit against the state this week, challenging its constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The arguments employed in the lawsuit reportedly reflect the lawsuit that ultimately overturned Utah's ban on same-sex marriage.

"We are asking for relief on behalf of all married and unmarried same-sex couples in Arizona," attorney Shawn Aiken, who is representing the four same-sex couples in the lawsuit, said in a statement. "Now is the time to take up this issue."

The lawsuit reportedly argues that the Supreme Court's June ruling, which struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act and thus awarded some federal benefits to same-sex couples, should be reason for Arizona to legalize same-sex marriage. The rationale behind this argument is that same-sex couples receiving federal benefits should also have their union recognized by individual states.

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"We're saying, 'Look, follow that rationale and make the same declaration as to the law in Arizona,' " Aiken said, according to the Arizona Republic. "It's that simple."

Those being represented in the recent Arizona lawsuit include Joseph Connolly and Terrel Pochert from Pinal County, Suzanne Cummins and Holly Mitchell of Maricopa County, Clark Rowley and David Chaney of Maricopa County, and Mason Hite and Christopher Devine, also of Maricopa County.

The lawsuit comes weeks after, in a surprise ruling, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby overturned Utah's 2004 ban on same-sex marriage, saying it was unconstitutional based on the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment rights to Equal Protection and Due Process. Since his ruling, over 1,000 same-sex couples in the conservative state have received marriage licenses from their local county clerk. On Monday, Jan. 6, however, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Utah a stay in the issuing of same-sex marriage licenses as the state challenges Shelby's ruling in the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It is unclear what will happen to the licenses already issued to same-sex couples in Utah.

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, a group that opposes same-sex marriage, said in a statement following the Supreme Court's decision Monday that "the decision by a single federal judge to redefine marriage in Utah is lawless, and we are pleased that the Supreme Court has put this decision on hold to allow the state to appeal it in an orderly fashion."

According to the Arizona Republic, the most recent Arizona case is one of 25 filed in 16 states challenging state law that bans same-sex marriage. Arizona's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was rejected by voters in 2006, but then approved by voters in 2008 under the name Proposition 102.

Cathi Herrod, president of the pro-traditional marriage advocacy group Center for Arizona Policy, told the Arizona Republic that she hopes the most recent lawsuit filed in Arizona will not succeed in overturning the will of Arizona voters. "We would hope the courts would defer to the Arizona voters that clearly defined marriage as only being between one man and one woman."

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