Saturday, June 28, 2008

Arizona Senate Breaks Own Rules To Pass Anti-Marriage Amendment

Box Turtle Bulletin » Arizona Senate Breaks Own Rules To Pass Anti-Marriage Amendment

Jim Burroway
June 28th, 2008
The Republican-controlled Arizona Senate late yesterday broke its own rules to shut down debate and force a vote to place a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage on the ballot.

According to Equality Arizona and the Arizona Daily Star, Sen Paula Aboud (D-Tucson) was engaged in a debate with Sen. Ken Cheuvront (D-Phoenix) on another tax bill in a move similar to a filibuster according to the Senate rules. During the debate, Majority Leader Thayer Verschoor (R-Gilbert) and Majority Whip John Huppenthal (R-Chandler), among others, devised a scheme with committee chairman Jack Harper (R- rural district 4) to violate the rules of the Senate and the rights of Senators Aboud and Cheuvront.

Barbara McCullough-Jones and Sam Holdren of Arizona Equality describe what happened next:

In the middle of their discussion, Senator Harper turned off the microphones of Senators Paula Aboud (D-28) and Ken Cheuvront (D-15) and called on the Majority Leader to make a motion. Then, when Senators Aboud and Cheuvront loudly called for a Point of Order several times, even walking to the front desk where Senator Harper sat, he deliberately ignored their calls. To add insult to injury, these people attempted to justify their actions, even after the Senate President and other Senators admonished them for deliberately breaking the rules. Tonight’s actions of these and other Senators have forever tainted that body, and it’s important that we all let the people of Arizona know how these individuals acted so unethically.

The chamber broke down into chaos for the next twenty minutes when]the matter was finally brought before Senate President Tim Bee (R-Tucson) for resolution. Bee, who had been trying to keep the proposed amendment off the calendar, lambasted the Center for Arizona Policy (CAP), the right-wing lobbying group behind the marriage amendment, for what he described as their divisive tactics, hostility, coercion and threats. He then publicly buckled under the pressure and became the constitutionally-mandated sixteenth vote to placed the measure on the ballot.

Sens. Aboud and Cheuvront are the only two openly gay members of the Arizona Senate. After the shouting was over, Sen. Aboud spoke again to the Senate:

“I just don’t understand how my personal, private relationship between two people affects anyone else in this room?

“Get your love off my back,” Aboud said. “Is your relationship with your family so fragile that you’re threatened by me?”

Today was a shameful day in the Senate’s history under Bee’s weak leadership. Bee is running for Congress to try to replace Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson) in a congressional district which voted against the 2006 attempt to write discrimination into the constitution by a wider margin than did voters statewide (45.4% to 54.6% in CD8, versus 48.2% to 51.8% statewide). During his term in the Senate, Bee represented a district which also defeated Prop 107 a margin wider than the statewide tally (47.5% to 52.5%).

Yesterday may well have marked the end of Bee’s political career. And with his shameful display of cowardice under pressure, it is an end well deserved.

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