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Church State Issues

Into the mind of ... Erin Ogletree Simpson

Jun 22, 2013

Arizona Republic

In this article a gay Republican is trying to modify Arizona's Constitution to allow gay marriage.

The Republic | Fri Jun 21, 2013 6:17 PM

The Equal Marriage Arizona co-chair explains why her group is preparing to ask voters to allow gay marriage.

Were it to pass, what would your initiative accomplish?

Two simple things. First, it will strike the terms “a man and a woman” and insert “two persons” in Arizona’s Constitutional definition of marriage. Second, it will affirmatively protect the freedom of religious organizations, associations or societies by specifying that such organizations shall not be required to officiate or solemnize any particular marriage or religious rite of marriage in violation of their Constitutional right to free exercise of religion.

Why add the clause on free exercise of religion?

Because religious freedom and individual liberty are both vitally important, and this amendment honors both.

Why did you announce your proposed ballot initiative before the Supreme Court rules on California’s Proposition 8?

We are obviously presuming the Supreme Court will return the issue of equal marriage to the states. We wanted to hit the ground running and begin collecting the nearly 260,000 signatures of registered Arizona voters as soon as the ruling is released.

In 2008, Arizonans passed a measure defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Why do you think they might vote differently today?

Polling shows that perspectives on equal marriage are changing, and rapidly. Within the last few years, society has begun recognizing that this is primarily a matter of individual liberty.

Why did you decide to lead this effort?

I am a lifelong conservative Republican, and I am gay. I love this country, and I love this state. Among even my conservative and religious friends, I am beginning to sense frustration that the party has allowed an issue that many good and honest people disagree about to become central to its identity. That is poor strategy, at a minimum, and inconsistent with central historical values of Republicans.

You are chairwoman of the Arizona Log Cabin Republicans. How do you square your membership in a party that is often perceived as hostile toward gays?

Sexual orientation does not control political orientation. Given any particular issue pertaining to how government should best function, I generally agree with the Republican approach. Because those roots run deep in me, I feel the best role I can play is to push from the right on this issue because no one political group can succeed in establishing equal marriage on its own.

Your co-chair is a Libertarian. Is there a method in having a Republican and Libertarian lead this effort?

Soon we will be announcing additional co-chairs on this committee, including Democrats and people from all over the political spectrum. But by starting with a Libertarian and a Republican, we felt the Equal Marriage Amendment had the best potential to draw other like-minded conservatives.

What has been the reaction since you announced you would pursue this initiative?

Enthusiastic support. Fairness and a quest for individual liberty have always been hallmarks of Arizonans.

Are you starting to get significant financial support?

Yes! Since filing this past Monday, we have received just over $100,000 in contributions from organizations and businesses.