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Arizona gay marriage: Couples get married, celebrate

Oct 18, 2014

Arizona Republic

I am not gay, but I support gay marriage.

If you ask me marriage should be a contract between people, not something you have to get permission from the government to do.

Arizona gay marriage: Couples get married, celebrate

Anne Ryman, The Republic | 9:40 p.m. MST October 17, 2014

Karen Bailey and Nelda Majors, a couple for nearly 57 years, were among the first to get a marriage license Friday in downtown Phoenix after a federal judge ruled that Arizona must allow same-sex couples to marry.

"It feels wonderful. Look at it," said Bailey, 75, showing off the freshly printed license as she and Majors emerged from a Maricopa County court clerk's office.

Right behind them were David Larance, 36, and Kevin Patterson, 31, who were married within minutes of receiving their license outside an office of the county clerk of the Superior Court.

Patterson was in such a rush that he arrived from the gym without the wedding ring for his spouse.

The pastor who performed the ceremony, the Rev. John Dorhauer, quickly slipped off his own ring to use as a substitute.

Across Arizona, court clerks took the historic step of issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Licenses were quickly updated with new wording, including a third option of "spouse" in addition to "bride" and "groom."

Several couples held marriage ceremonies within minutes or hours of getting their certificates. Others began making plans for more formal ceremonies with families and friends.

The concrete patio outside the Maricopa County clerk of the Superior Court's office, near Fifth Avenue and Jackson Street, became the scene of a pop-up wedding chapel by midmorning Friday.

Couples leaving the office with certificates in hand were greeted by ministers offering to perform the ceremony on the spot. Some held up signs that said, in red letters: "We stand ready to marry you!"

Ceremonies dotted the small plaza. Photographers and TV camera crews hustled into place to get a good angle for the brief exchanges of vows. Every few minutes, clapping marked the end of one ceremony, then whooping and shouting would end another.

At Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton's office,a couple who have been together for 12 years were married by an openly gay judge who said he had previously refused to officiate weddings in Arizona because same-sex unions were prohibited.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Kevin Kane said he was honored to have the opportunity to perform the ceremony.

"It's about time," he said.

Tim Pawlak and Jason Bannecker, together for more than a decade, exchanged rings about five years ago. Exchanging vows was something neither said they needed to solidify their relationship. But they were thrilled to have the opportunity.

Stanton said that their union marked a historic day in Arizona but that there are more to come.

"It's a civil march moving forward. I'm glad you chose us. Today is a day about love," he said.

At Coconino County Superior Court in Flagstaff, Gary Dunn, 62, and Dwayne Conn, 50, had a marriage license in hand within 10 minutes. But after being together 18 years, they didn't know when exactly they would put the piece of paper to use.

"We filed a mortgage together 15 years ago," Dunn said. "How much more married can you get?"

Erika Alvarez, 31, and Abby Ortiz, 33, were among the first couples to get licenses at the Coconino County courthouse. They returned later in the day for a marriage ceremony in one of the courtrooms.

Before the ceremony, Alvarez reflected on what the day meant to her.

"(From now on) I'm going to be married," she said. "I'm not less than that couple or that couple or that couple. I won't have to say, 'She's my partner.' I can say, 'She's my wife.'"

She held Ortiz's face in her hands during the brief ceremony, which was filled with smiles and tears.

Howard Grodman, a judge in the Flagstaff Justice Court, ended with slightly new wording.

"Now, by the authority that was newly vested in me today, by the state of Arizona, I pronounce you spouses."

Two dozen observers hooted and hollered.

In Tucson, the Rev. Delle McCormick, senior minister of Rincon Congregational Church, arrived at Pima County Superior Court at about 10 a.m. with the intention of marrying as many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples as possible.

McCormick, who is a lesbian, was married in Massachusetts to her partner of nine years. Her marriage became legal Friday in Arizona.

Katherine Harrison, 37, and Jennifer Shelton, 35, arrived at the same courthouse later that morning. Friday's legal decision worked out perfectly for them — they already had a (less official) wedding planned for today.

"We got a cup of coffee and just raced right on over," Harrison said. "We haven't even had breakfast yet."

They emerged at noon with a license, headed to their wedding-rehearsal dinner later Friday. Their ceremony was to go ahead as planned this evening.

Now, they said, they are thinking about adopting a child. "Way to go, Arizona," Harrison said.

At least six wedding ceremonies had taken place by midafternoon outside the Pima County courthouse.

Officials at the Maricopa County Northwest Regional Court Center in Surprise began setting up clipboards for marriage licenses shortly after Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne announced he would not appeal the federal ruling.

The courthouse had its first marriage license by noon, with nine licenses issued and five marriage ceremonies performed near the doorstep my midafternoon.

Ann Vanacore and Helen Dunlap were the first gay couple issued a marriage license in Surprise. They have been together for 41 years, most of which was lived in silence for fear of losing their jobs as elementary-school teachers in Connecticut.

They only recently broke their silence, and they attribute that to a local choir group they joined and Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner.

The Rev. Terry Sims, who married couples in front of the Surprise courthouse, said it was a bold new day for justice and civil rights in Arizona.

"The trend has been in favor of gay marriage for a number of years. This doesn't mean there won't be pockets of resistance," he said. "But the tide is definitely shifting."

Jimi Olmstead and Jim Harland were married in Los Angeles in 2008. But Olmstead said they wanted to be married in the state where they live, which they did in Surprise on Friday.

They moved to Sun City West recently to be with Olmstead's father, who had become ill.

They met 38 years ago in a gay bar in West Hollywood. The disco song "You Should Be Dancing" by the Bee Gees was playing. They danced — and they have never been apart since.

Maricopa County's software system for printing licenses was up and running, allowing a third option — "spouse" — in addition to "bride" and "groom."

"A couple can come in, and it can be bride-bride, groom-groom, spouse-spouse or whatever the couple chooses," said Michael Jeanes, Maricopa County clerk of Superior Court.

In downtown Phoenix, a business awards luncheon turned into a celebration.

Just as servers were setting out entrees in the ballroom at the Downtown Phoenix Sheraton Hotel, couples Sue Wieger and Sheila Kloefkorn and Bonnie Meyer and Katharine Halpin were married by Phoenix Municipal Judge Marianne Bayardi.

The weddings were a surprise for the more than 600 guests at the One Community awards luncheon, celebrating partnerships between the gay community and Arizona businesses.

Bayardi got a call at 9:30 a.m. Friday asking her to perform the wedding, an hour before Horne made his announcement.

The room broke into shouts, clapping, whooping and cheers when Bayardi pronounced the legally married couples.

Wieger held Kloefkorn's hand and said, "Now I can take care of her for the rest of my life," and kissed the back of her hand.

As the two couples posed for photos, servers passed out plates of vanilla layer cake frosted with a single word: "Love."

Republic reporters Tyler Fingert, Ryan Van Velzer, Mariana Dale, Megan Finnerty, Richard Ruelas, Jim Walsh, Sean Holstege, Philip Haldiman, Yihyun Jeong, Dianna M. Náñez, Maria Polletta, Caitlin McGlade, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Dustin Gardiner contributed to this article.

Reach the reporter at 602-444-8072 or


Marriage, the institution, just got stronger

Editorial board, The Republic | 12:17 p.m. MST October 17, 2014

Our View: With Attorney General Tom Horne declining to appeal, same sex couples can create lasting and legal unions. gay marriage

Attorney General Tom Horne will not appeal a federal court's decision declaring Arizona's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

And so we will soon find out if the institution of marriage can withstand the flood of loving couples who wish to formalize their relationship and avail themselves of all the legal protections heterosexual couples have long taken for granted.

We expect it will do just fine. It hasn't suffered in any of the 30 other states where gays and lesbians now unite in matrimony.

Oh, there will be those who lash out at judges who uphold constitutional principles over popular passions. There will be those who insist that "God still ordains marriage to only be the union of one man and one woman," as Center for Arizona Policy President Cathi Herrod did this morning in an email blast that promises to "redouble our efforts to rebuild a culture of marriage."

They are free to do so. Churches can continue to decide who they will marry. That is their constitutional right.

But in Arizona, a large number of couples already marry outside of the church, with a nondenominational pastor or no clergy at all.

Marriage is not solely a religious rite. In our secular society, it is a civil institution that bestows legal rights and responsibilities. Married couples can direct the upbringing of their children, rather than having to decide which one will be listed as the parent.

They can own community property. A spouse can see the other in the hospital or have a say in medical care without being turned away as an unrelated person. At last, committed same-sex couples in Arizona will have these basic civil rights.

Horne called this one correctly. An appeal would have no chance of success at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which already has ruled on this issue. The Supreme Court turned away appeals from other circuits. The inevitable has arrived in Arizona.

It is a day to celebrate.

The history of the United States is one of expanding rights, of bringing more and more people under the protection of a Constitution dedicated to securing "the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." Those blessings were secured today for same-sex couples in Arizona.

And with a judge's decree, the institution of marriage became stronger.


Gay marriage - and equality - come to Arizona

Laurie Roberts, columnist | 1:01 p.m. MST October 17, 2014

And so it comes, not with a cataclysmic bang but with the simple stroke of a pen.

Strike a blow for equality, Arizona. A federal judge this morning tossed out Arizona's ban on same-sex marriage.

In a four-page ruling, U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick ruled that last week's 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling declaring marriage restrictions unconstitutional in Nevada and Idaho also applies to Arizona.

Attorney General Tom Horne has directed county clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses immediately.

Of course, Friday's ruling was inevitable, both because of last week's 9th Circuit ruling and because of the swift moving change in public sentiment.

Maybe it's generational. Maybe it's simply an acknowledgement that consenting adults ought to be treated equally under the law.

The argument that the state needs to protect traditional marriage in order to protect children has never really worked. For one thing, plenty of couples marry and have none. For another, half of all marriages fail.

And thirdly, whether or not two consenting adults marry has absolutely no effect on my children. Or yours.

Somebody needs to send word to the Center for Arizona's Cathi Herrod that everything's going to be OK.

"Today, we grieve," she wrote, in a prepared statement. "We grieve for the children who now have no chance of growing up with a mom and a dad. We mourn the loss of a culture and its ethical foundation. We mourn a culture that continues to turn its back on timeless principles."

Breathe, Cathi. It's really not the end of the world as you know it. In fact, it's the world you're living in.

Actually, I'm still not quite sure why government is even in the marriage business. It seems far more logical to leave the matter of "Holy Matrimony" to a couple, their church and their God, and the issue of a civil contract outlining a living arrangement to the government.

But given that government has decided that it must license marriage, there is that pesky constitutional principle which calls for treating people equally.

I'm guessing most Arizonans would agree with that principle. This, after all, is the land of Senate Bill 1062.

You remember SB 1062, the freedom of religion/right-to-refuse-service-in-the-name-of-God bill pushed by Cathi Herrod and the Center for Arizona Policy. Most Arizonans were aghast earlier this year when the Legislature approved what amounted to government-sanctioned discrimination.

Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill, saying "I have not heard of one example in Arizona where a business owner's religious liberty has been violated."

The same could be said for marriage.

I can't think of one example of how the government approving what amounts to a contract between two consenting adults violates my rights, or endangers my marriage.

Or yours.


Great day for equal rights in same-sex marriage ruling

EJ Montini, columnist | 11:02 a.m. MST October 17, 2014

It's a very good day for wedding planners.

And an even better day for those who believe in equal rights ... for everyone.

Federal Judge John Sedwick -- as he hinted he would -- struck down Arizona's ban on same-sex marriage.

Several lawsuits has been filed against the law. Shawn Aiken, a lawyer representing seven Arizona couples who were challenging the law in court, said, "These couples from across Arizona bravely stood for equality for themselves, their families, and over 21,000 other gay and lesbian couples living in Arizona today."

The judge had given the state until Thursday to come up with an argument to convince him otherwise.

But there is no good argument.

There has been no good argument against same-sex marriage.

Now, finally, Arizona will be forced to say "I do" to same-sex marriage.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne decided not to try to delay the inevitable. Some day we'll be asking ourselves what took us so long.

Gov. Jan Brewer sounded the loudest, most sour note on the subject, issuing a statement that read in part,

"In 2008, Arizona voters approved a state constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman. Now, with their rulings, the federal courts have again thwarted the will of the people and further eroded the authority of states to regulate and uphold our laws. It is not only disappointing, but also deeply troubling, that unelected federal judges can dictate the laws of individual states, create rights based on their personal policy preferences and supplant the will of the people in an area traditionally left to the states for more than two hundred years."

Actually, courts have been making decisions exactly like this -- when a law is unconstitutional -- for more than 200 years.

The governor can look it up.

For now, however, Arizona ACLU Executive Director Alessandra Soler, said of the court's decision, "Today's ruling brings security to thousands of families in Arizona. It's a moment to be celebrated. Equal protection of the law is one of the fundamental principles that allows our country to thrive and evolve. Dismantling this discriminatory ban brings our state and nation closer to our founding ideals of fairness, justice and liberty. We will continue to fight for equality for all Arizonans and oppose any efforts to unravel today's historic victory."

"Today we celebrate the court's recognition that every individual in Arizona has the freedom to marry the person they love. We hope that Attorney General Tom Horne will honor the court's ruling and allow marriage licenses to be issued immediately."

And Horne agreed.

It was the right thing to do.

It was the only thing to do.