Monday, July 14, 2008

Same-sex marriage issue contentious for legislators

Same-sex marriage issue contentious for legislators

Jul. 13, 2008 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
The debate over a constitutional same-sex marriage ban was one of the most contentious issues of this legislative session. It shadowed the entire session, as supporters struggled to get it through each chamber and as Senate President Tim Bee refused to schedule a vote until the state budget was completed.

On the final day of the session, supporters pushed the measure to a vote, again. This time opponents led by openly gay Democratic Sens. Paula Aboud and Ken Cheuvront staged an unsuccessful filibuster. The referendum on the marriage amendment, which would add language to the state Constitution defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, passed with the minimum 16 votes needed and goes before voters in November.

Republic reporter Amanda J. Crawford recently discussed the referendum with senators on both sides of the issue. Sen. Aboud, 58, is a lesbian who has been in a committed relationship with her partner for more than eight years. She sees the fight over same-sex marriage as a civil-rights issue.

Sen. Linda Gray, 59, a leading proponent of the referendum, has been married to her second husband for 25 years. She believes banning gay marriage is an important issue for Arizona and society.


Question: How do you feel about the marriage amendment being on the fall ballot?

Answer: This is an initiative that people have already voted on, number one . . . This country disallowed Blacks from voting then disallowed interracial marriage . . . There is a lot of history around marriage in this country, and it is about the civil rights of individuals.

Q: How do you think history will look back on this issue?

A: The same way it looks at interracial marriage.

Q: Will it pass?

I think it will fail . . . They want no recognition, no equality for the lesbian/gay community . . . I don't think anybody should be voting on anybody's civil rights.

Q: On the floor of the Senate during debate on this measure, you talked a lot about your relationship and how this measure affected you personally. Why?

This piece of legislation affects me personally, and these people know me . . . I'm here to say this is how it affects me. What the heck are you all afraid of? My relationship with my partner in no way impacts their lives. They have worked with me for three years . . . Nothing about my relationship with my partner in the last three years has impacted their lives. So that is the question: What are you afraid of?

Q: What do you think they are afraid of?

A: It's the fear of the unknown. (Same-sex) marriage is legal in California. (Same-sex) marriage is legal in Massachusetts. And nothing is happening to frighten anybody. All that is happening is people who want to are going to churches and getting married.

Q: Do you think it was important to have gay legislators present during this debate?

A: The people who provided the greatest passion and eloquence on this issue were people personally affected by it. It is important that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community be involved in the Legislature and the process to expand the consciousness of legislators. I know personally some legislators are changing their opinion on this issue for having known gay legislators, particularly in the area of denial of rights - particularly when they recognize that we pay the same taxes and are denied the same benefits. When people step aside from their religions and they look at that, they know if they are honest with themselves, they know that is wrong.

Q: Some opponents portray the marriage amendment as divisive. Do you agree?

A: This is an issue that the fundamentalists have used to foment hate. And it will continue to foment divisiveness and disharmony in Arizona.


Question: How do you feel about the marriage amendment being on the fall ballot?

Answer: I am glad that the people will have the chance to vote on whether they think we need a constitutional amendment to protect marriage as defined as between one man and one woman.

Q: How do you think history will look back at this issue?

A: How have we looked back at marriage from time beginning? History has always been in support of marriage between one man and one woman. Polygamy was not acceptable. That's why we have in our statute that it is defined as between one man and one woman. Recently, though, the courts, in California and New Jersey, have begun to have a different definition of what marriage should be. That is why, because of the California ruling, once they began to offer marriage between two women or two men, then other states may have to recognize that marriage. That's why we made a constitutional amendment.

Q: Will the marriage amendment pass in Arizona?

A: I believe the marriage amendment will pass, according to some of the surveys that are happening. They are showing at least 61 percent in support.

Q: What did you think about Sen. Aboud's comments on the Senate floor about this being about people being afraid of relationships like hers?

A: I don't understand why she thinks we are afraid of her or her relationship. I have worked well with her. It is her private decision to have a partner and she is free in America to have that freedom to have that relationship. But as far as definition of marriage as one man and one woman, I think that's what we should have.

Q: Supporters of same-sex marriage have compared the issue to interracial marriage. Do you see a parallel there?

A: I don't think that is the same thing. From time beginning, when countries came together there has been interracial marriage. History talks about, and more so Biblical history talks about, that (gay relationships) not being allowed, that it is a taboo, a sin. It goes way back in history as not being culturally acceptable.

Q: You brought up Biblical history. Would this amendment put religious beliefs and beliefs from the Bible into our Constitution?

A: Religious beliefs have always been a part of our Constitution . . . America was founded on religious beliefs to begin with.

Q: Do you think that this will be a divisive issue for Arizonans as the campaign moves forward?

A: I don't see it as divisive . . . I don't think it has to be hateful at all.

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