Wednesday, Feb. 26th, 2013, was a big day for fairness and equality in Texas and Arizona. In Texas, U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage; while in Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have allowed businesses to deny their services to gay couples. Texas and Arizona continue to make headlines as the rights of gays and lesbians take center stage yet again.
In 2005, Texas voters approved Proposition 2, which restricted the definition of marriage to existing only between a man and a woman, making it the 19th state to include a constitutional ban on marriages between same-sex couples. Since then the Texas Supreme Court has dealt with a series of legal disputes over the proposition, regarding its constitutionality under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Nine years later, District Judge Garcia struck down the Texas ban, ruling the ban to be state-promoted inequality. This decision followed the U.S Supreme Court’s decision in June of 2013 to fully recognize legally married gay couples across the country. Since then there had been five gay marriage bans that have been overturned across the U.S in Kentucky, Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, and Ohio; making Texas the sixth state to overturn it. For both Texas and Arizona, the unequal status of gays and lesbians takes center stage, as headlines are filled with legal victories in their favor.
Greater equality for same-sex couples is on the rise throughout the country, as Arizona’s controversial religious freedom bill died on the desk of Governor Brewer yesterday. A week has passed since the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was approved in Arizona’s House of Representatives and Senate; with final approval pending upon Governor Brewer’s decision to sign the bill into law. If signed, the bill would have protected the rights of business owners to refuse their services to anyone whom they felt “burdened” their ability to exercise their religious beliefs. While the bill itself was not explicit in it’s language against gays and lesbians, it was certainly interpreted to be directly aimed at the gay and lesbian community.
In the last seven days, as the country awaited her decision, pressure was building for her to veto the bill. Arizona faced criticism from various corporations and athletic organizations, especially since the state is the upcoming host of next year’s NFL Super Bowl. Delta Airlines, Intel, and JPMorgan Chase are just a few of the corporations that spoke out against Arizona’s religious freedom bill. Subsequently, the bill was vetoed by Gov. Brewer on Wednesday. In her statement the Governor explained that while she still held strongly the traditional values of marriage and family, she could not pass the religious freedom bill because it of its potential to cause more problems than it could solve, another victory in the name of equality for the gay community.
Headlines will continue to buzz with news from both Texas and Arizona, while gay rights take center stage. As the fight for equality continues throughout the rest of the country, the overturning of the same-sex marriage ban in Texas serves as an advancement, continuing to pave the way in just representation for all. And in Arizona’s case, Gov. Brewer’s decision prevents what would have potentially furthered the isolation and estrangement of gays and lesbians in the state. Although the events in Texas and Arizona do not necessarily change the convictions held by many of those living in these states, it is still nonetheless a step in a more equal and fair direction for gays and lesbians in the two states.
By Natalia Sanchez
Human Rights Campaign