On Friday, same-sex marriage was officially on its way in Arizona after the Attorney General decided against appealing to the district court. On Oct 6, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down bans in three states which were keeping same-sex partners from getting married. It is now legal in 31 states throughout the U.S.
Earlier this year the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage act in a 5-4 vote, which would give benefits to couples who were married in states that already allowed gay marriages. District Judge John Sedgwick explains, “States are bound by the decision of the lower courts, adding, “Petitioning the same small court is futile.”
Arizona received national attention and plenty of criticism regarding a bill that would have allowed proprietors the right to turn gays away based on religious freedom. Jan Brewer, Arizona’s governor, vetoed the bill hours before the bill passed. The republican-backed bill would have allowed merchant owners to legally refuse service to gays. Democrats called the bill legal discrimination. Officially allowing same-sex marriage is a in leap from where Arizona was at this time last year.
The Supreme Court is less then likely to hear a same-sex marriage case unless there is a split in the federal appeals court. Alaska appealed the decision of the 9th Circuit Court claiming more time to figure out what was best for Alaskans. On Friday it was rejected in a written order. Wyoming has not offered up a public decision whether they will appeal the courts order. It is possible a decision will come out on Thursday.
In the beginning of October only 19 states allowed same-sex couples to marry. That number is at 31, presuming Wyoming does not appeal. Same-sex marriages in 19 States and the District of Columbia, are currently recognized by the federal government. As of Friday that number has risen to 26.
Arizona passed a law in 1996 and a voter approved amendment in 2008 that defined marriage to be between a man and a women, stating a traditional marriage would allow children to have relationships with both biological parents. State legislators said, “The ban was best for the people of Arizona.” U.S. District Judge John Sedwick ruled on Friday to terminate these bans. Immediately after Attorney General Tom Horne’s announcement regarding the choice not to appeal, gay couples began the process to marry in Arizona. County clerks were able to serve the couples who were applying.
The U.S. is on a forward path of turning over bans in all 50 states. With same-sex marriage becoming official in Arizona, there are only 19 states left, five of which are in the appeals process now. Those states are Kentucky, Florida, Michigan, Texas and Arkansas. If the 9th Circuit ruling has any influence in where these appeals are headed, these states may be added soon to the growing number of states that find it unconstitutional to restrict gays from the same rights as their counterparts.
By Paul Sears
Image courtesy of Bart Vis – Flickr License