The Freedom to Marry in Arizona

Winning Marriage: October 17, 2014

Same-sex couples began marrying in Arizona on October 17, 2014 after U.S. District Court Judge Sedwick ruled in favor of the freedom to marry in a federal legal case challenging the state’s anti-marriage laws. The ruling came ten days after the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled in favor of the freedom to marry in cases from Nevada and Idaho on October 7.

History and the Path to Victory:

  • April 1975: Anti-gay forces in Arizona force a bill through the legislature restricting marriage to different-sex couples after a same-sex couple receives a marriage license in the state. The marriage license is later revoked. 
  • 1996: The Arizona Legislature passes a state statute restricting marriage to different-sex couples and denying respect to any marriages between same-sex couples performed in other states. Governor Fife Symington III signs the statue. A similar statute is again passed in 1999.
  • November 6, 2006: Anti-marriage forces attempt to ban same-sex couples from marriage or any other legal family status with Proposition 107, but voters reject the measure, in a narrow vote – the first-ever successful defeat of an anti-marriage constitutional amendment at the ballot.
  • November 4, 2008: Opponents of the freedom to marry in Arizona once again attempt a discriminatory constitutional amendment, Proposition 102, which denies same-sex couples the freedom to marry. The amendment is narrowly passed and cements clearly discriminatory language into the Arizona Constitution.
  • 2008-2013: As Americans nationwide engage in conversations about why marriage matters, national and local advocates in Arizona take strides toward increasing understanding of same-sex couples and their families.
  • May 2012: Polling in Arizona tracks a marked growth in support for the freedom to marry, reflecting the power of the national discussion of why marriage matters.
  • September 17, 2013: Why Marriage Matters Arizona, the campaign to remove discrimination from Arizona’s constitution and win the freedom to marry for all couples in the state, is launched.
  • January 6, 2014: Same-sex couples and private counsel file a federal legal case seeking the freedom to marry in Arizona, Connolly v. Brewer. In the same year, a separate case, Lambda Legal’s Majors v. Horne, is filed, building momentum for marriage in the courts. Read the initial complaint in Connolly and the initial complaint in Majors. 
  • September 12, 2014: U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick grants a temporary restraining order in Majors v. Horne, declaring that Arizona must respect the legal marriage of Fred McQuire and his late husband George Martinez. Without this ruling, Fred would not have been eligible for the Social Security and veterans survivor benefits that different-sex couples receive. Read the order.
  • October 7, 2014: The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rules in favor of the freedom to marry in cases based in Nevada and Idaho. The decision, combined with the U.S. Supreme Court’s October 6 choice to deny review in several pro-marriage federal appellate decisions, sets a precedent that becomes binding across the circuit, including in Arizona.
  • October 17, 2014: U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick rules that Arizona's anti-marriage amendment is unconstitutional, bound by the precedent established by the 9th Circuit. Arizona Attorney General Horne announces just hours later that he will not appeal the ruling, meaning that same-sex couples immediately have the freedom to marry in the Grand Canyon State. Read the ruling in Connolly, and read the ruling in Majors
  • June 26, 2015: The United States Supreme Court rules in favor of the freedom to marry, ending marriage discrimination across the country.

Groups That Actively Worked on Marriage

  • Why Marriage Matters Arizona was the grassroots public education campaign to build support for the freedom to marry in Arizona.  
  • The ACLU of Arizona is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the state Constitution, and state and federal laws.
  • Equality Arizona is the state's largest LGBT civil rights organization working to secure, protect and defend the rights and welfare of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Arizona.
  • Stonewall Democrats of Arizona is a statewide organization in Arizona dedicated to securing and protecting the rights of LGBT people in Arizona.  
  • Freedom to Marry was the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.