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Ariz. judge says marriage amendment can stay on ballot

PHOENIX (BP)–Arizona’s proposed constitutional marriage amendment does not violate state law and can be placed on the November ballot — assuming the required signatures are verified — a state judge ruled Aug. 10.

Amendment opponents filed suit in July, arguing that the amendment violates the Arizona constitution by covering more than one subject. The two-sentence amendment protects the natural definition of marriage by banning both “gay marriage” and Vermont-style civil unions.

But trial court Judge Douglas L. Rayes sided with pro-family groups, saying that the subjects covered in the amendment are in fact one issue.

“The court finds the two clauses of the proposed amendment have but one purpose, the protection of marriage by preventing redefinition and extension of official status to marriage substitutes,” Rayes wrote.

He also said that while supporters and opponents of the amendment made “cogent and persuasive arguments,” Arizona court precedent led him to “narrowly” side with supporters.

Even though the Arizona Supreme Court will have the final say in the case, Rayes’ decision was significant for Protect Marriage Arizona, which collected 307,000 signatures for the amendment — many more than the 184,000 required. The signatures have yet to be verified.

“The judge understood that this amendment is a clear, straightforward proposition with one purpose: protecting marriage,” Alliance Defend Fund attorney Glen Lavy said in a statement. ADF and the Center for Arizona Policy are representing Protect Marriage Arizona.

“This was just another desperate attempt to evade the democratic process by those who advocate redefining marriage,” Lavy added. “Every time this issue has been presented to the voters, it has passed overwhelmingly, by an average of 70 percent. We are confident that we will see a similar result in Arizona, and we are prepared to defend any appeal of today’s decision.”

State supreme courts in Florida, Georgia and Louisiana have heard similar cases and ruled against amendment opponents in each instance.

As many as eight states could be voting on marriage amendments this fall. Twenty states already have adopted them.
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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