Monday, June 30, 2008

Arizona citizens to vote on banning same-sex marriage

After failing in April in the Arizona House of Representatives after Democrats changed the measure to tie it to expanded legal rights for domestic partners, causing most Republicans to withdraw their support, the Senate approves a measure to ban same-sex marriage in the final hours of one of the longest state legislative sessions on record.

Arizona voters rejected a similar state constitutional amendment in 2006. That measure would have also stopped the state from recognizing civil unions of same-sex couples.

The long-anticipated vote came just before adjournment and followed hours of angry, raucous debate in which the Arizona Senate rule book was used as a weapon to both stall the vote (Democrats) and cut short debate (Republicans). Senators on both sides of the aisle and of the issue lamented a meltdown in the higher chamber, as most of the day's work was scrapped so that the marriage amendment could be voted upon while key senators were present.

Senate President Tim Bee, a Tucson Republican, cast the decisive, 16th vote in favor of the referendum that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

After the vote, conservative activists rejoiced that voters would get a chance to vote on the issue this fall. A similar measure, which also banned governments from offering benefits to employees' domestic partners, gay or straight, failed at the polls in 2006.

Democratic Sen. Paula Aboud accused leadership of "cheating," while Harper derided Democrats for "dilatory" stall tactics.

"To end this session today means we all walk out of here tainted, besmirched," Aboud said. "That's what will be remembered about this session."

Aboud, who is openly gay, accused the amendment's supporters of being "afraid of me and my relationship."

Bee and other members decried the lack of decorum.

After the vote, conservative activists cheered while gay rights activists blasted lawmakers for pushing a measure that would divide Arizonans.

Barbara McCullough-Jones, executive director of Equality Arizona, warned that anti-gay rhetoric from lawmakers could fuel anti-gay violence. She pledged that her group would work to defeat the election of lawmakers who supported the referendum, as well as the referendum itself.

"We as an electorate, we are going to say no again," she said.


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