Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ariz. Leaders Mull Gay Marriage Ban Anew - Topix

Ariz. Leaders Mull Gay Marriage Ban Anew - Topix

by Paul Davenport
Associated Press
Tuesday Feb 12, 2008

Republican lawmakers on Monday proposed asking voters in November to amend the Arizona Constitution to ban same-sex marriage in the state, which was the first to turn down such a measure.

The proposal was backed by 16 of 30 state senators, and an identical proposal was introduced in the House. Both chambers would have to approve the measure in a vote for it to be included on the ballot.

Under the amendment, "only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.’’ The proposal comes after Arizona voters narrowly rejected a similar measure in November 2006.

The previous measure included the same definition but also contained wording that was interpreted as prohibiting government recognition of civil unions or domestic partnerships. Seven other states approved amendments that day.

Opponents of the 2006 measure in Arizona focused much of their campaign on the additional wording’s reach. A leading backer of both measures said the new one should be considered a "consensus measure’’ because it is intended solely to bar recognition of same-sex marriage.

"This amendment is about bringing Arizonans together on an issue enjoying widespread agreement _ that marriage is a union of one man and one woman,’’ said Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, an advocacy group for social conservatives.

Arizona already has a state law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. That law withstood a 2003 court challenge, but supporters of an amendment said changing the Constitution would provide a strong legal shield.

State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Phoenix Democrat who led the opposition campaign to the 2006 measure, said she opposes the new proposal.

"I don’t think it’s needed. I don’t think it’s necessary,’’ she said. "We’ve already had this fight a couple of times.’’

The ballot measure proposal comes as a state commission prepares to review rule changes proposed by the administration of Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano that would provide health care and other employee benefits to the domestic partners of state government employees and retirees, no matter their gender.

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