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The ruling by US District Judge John Sedwick came today, barring state officials from enforcing a 1996 state law but also a 2008 voter-approved constitutional amendment in which gay marriage was outlawed. Judge Sedwick was nominated in 1992 to the Federal bench by then President George H.W. Bush.
In his ruling, Judge Sedwick stated that since the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had already ruled on October 7 against bans on gay marriage in the states of Idaho and Nevada, there was no reason to provide drawn-out details regarding his decision. He added that he was legally bound by the decision that came down from the appellant court.
Judge Sedwick pointed out that a stay on the decision to allow defendants to appeal was not warranted. Also, an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court would be unsuccessful and that the High Court would not listen to any request for relief specific to the decision of the 9th Circuit Court. In today’s ruling, the judge ordered Arizona to permanently cease the ban on gay marriage, followed by declining to stay the order.
An attorney for one plaintiff, Jennifer Pizer with the Lambda Legal law firm, said she was thrilled with the judge’s ruling. She added that some couples in Arizona have been waiting for more than 20 years for this day and finally, it has arrived. She hopes that the people of Arizona will embrace Judge Sedwick’s decision, allowing same-sex couples to enjoy their constitutional rights.
In a midmorning news conference called for by Attorney General Tom Horne, his office must now decide if the ruling will be appealed or if the state’s clerk needs to be advised to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples.
Until advice from the state Attorney General’s office comes down, the county clerk’s office in metro Phoenix will not issue any same-sex marriage licenses, this according to spokesperson Aaron Nash.
Just this past week, the US Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from a number of states trying to retain the ban on same-sex marriage. Currently, about 30 states allow gay marriage, which has created an array of rulings, as well as confusion in lower courts throughout the country.
Judge Sedwick’s ruling was in response to one of two lawsuits filed whereby the ban on gay marriage in Arizona was challenged. In his case, seven Arizona couples challenged current law, which included some who were legally married in other states but unable to have their marriage recognized in Arizona.
In both lawsuits, attorneys argued equal protection and due process rights were being violated and that clients were being denied the benefits that come with marriage to include spousal survivorship rights, pension benefits, and the right to make medical decisions for one another.
On the side of attorneys for the state of Arizona, Judge Sedwick was encouraged to retain the state’s definition of marriage as being a union between a man and women. Attorney’s further argued the ban supported interest in having a child connect with the biological mother and father and that it was enacted by voters and lawmakers as a way to protect the right to define marriage for their community.