Lambda Legal Asks Court to Compel Arizona to Recognize Marriage of Gay Couple Battling Serious Illness

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“Fred and George, as they near the end of their 45-year journey together, deserve the freedom to focus on each other secure in the knowledge that their love and commitment is recognized and respected.”
August 15, 2014

(Phoenix, AZ, August 15, 2014) — Today, Lambda Legal asked a federal court to compel the state of Arizona immediately to recognize the marriage of George Martinez and Fred McQuire, a gay couple from Green Valley who have been together for 45 years and were married last month in California after George was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer that has metastasized to his liver and was told that he only has months to live.

“These two lovely men, both of them in poor health which makes travel difficult, were forced to make an arduous journey to California to get married because of Arizona’s discriminatory marriage ban,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, Senior Counsel and Director, Law & Policy Project, Lambda Legal. “But they endured because they know their time together is short, only to return home where their marriage is not recognized. Fred and George, as they near the end of their 45-year journey together, deserve the freedom to focus on each other secure in the knowledge that their love and commitment is recognized and respected.”

Lambda Legal filed two motions today with the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona in Majors v. Jeanes, the lawsuit it filed in March challenging Arizona’s discriminatory marriage ban. In addition to the Motion for Preliminary Injunction to compel the state to recognize immediately the marriage of Mr. Martinez and Mr. McQuire, Lambda Legal also filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asking the court to determine that Arizona’s marriage ban is unconstitutional as it violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

George, 62, and Fred, 69, of Green Valley, are both veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who met in 1969. George served in the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam, and Fred served in both the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army and was stationed in Guam. In recent years, both have battled life-threatening illnesses which have required multiple hospitalizations. Fred suffers from pulmonary disease and Parkinson’s, and George was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago that resulted from his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. While the prostate cancer is in remission, this past June George was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.

“It’s been a devastating blow,” said George. “We knew we wanted to get married, and had hoped to be able to do it here, in Arizona, where we live. But now we can’t wait. Even though we are very sick and disabled, we decided we had no choice but to make the difficult and exhausting trip to California. We felt like we had to struggle to survive the journey, but we did because we wanted to get married and it was our only option. All we’re asking is that Arizona respect that marriage, respect the life we’ve built together for almost half a century, and allow us to spend these last months together in peace and love.”

Arizona’s marriage ban also prevents George from accessing the increased veterans’ disability compensation through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to which disabled veterans with spouses usually are entitled. Furthermore, when George dies, the State will refuse to issue a death certificate to Fred as George’s surviving husband, which will interfere with Fred’s ability to take care of George’s affairs after his death and to access survivor’s benefits generally available to a surviving spouse.

In addition to Fred and George, the other plaintiffs in the case include the lead plaintiffs, Nelda Majors, 75, and Karen Bailey, 74, of Scottsdale, who have been together for more than 55 years, and together have raised two children, Karen’s great grand-nieces Marissa and Sharla, as their own since the girls came into their home at ages 4 and 11 respectively. The girls are now 15 and 21.

The other plaintiffs include three couples and one surviving spouse from Phoenix, two couples and one surviving spouse from Tucson, and one couple from Tempe. The Phoenix plaintiffs include: David Larance, 35, and Kevin Patterson, 30, together for seven years and the parents of two girls; Michelle Teichner, 49, and Barbara Morrissey, 59, together for 10 years and married in New York this past July; Kathy and Jessica Young, 41 and 29 respectively, together for almost 10 years, married in New York this past June, and the parents of two young children, ages 7 and 11; and Patrick Ralph, 60, whose husband, Gary Hurst, died in August. Patrick and Gary got married in California in 2008 just before Proposition 8 passed. Although they were together for 39 years and legally married, the State of Arizona has refused to list Patrick as Gary’s husband on Gary’s death certificate.

The Tucson plaintiffs include: Kelli and Jennifer Hoelfe Olson, 36 and 38 respectively, together for 10 years, married in Minnesota this past August and the mothers of twin two-year20-month-old girls; and Kent Burbank, 45, and Vicente Talanquer, 51, together for almost 20 years, married in Iowa this past June and the fathers of two adopted boys, Daniel, 12, and Martin, 14; and Josefina Ahumada, 68, whose wife, Helen Battiste, died in January, 2014. Josefina and Helen were together for 23 years, pledged their commitment to each other in a religious ceremony in 1994 and got married in New Mexico in October, 2013. After Helen died, Josefina was not even permitted to apply for Helen’s death certificate, which does not list Josefina as Helen’s wife.

The Tempe couple is CJ and Jesús Castro-Byrd, 23 and 27 respectively, together for two years and married in Seattle, WA, in December 2012.

The Motion for Preliminary Injunction is here: http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/majors_az_20140814_motion...

The Motion for Summary Judgment is here: http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/majors_az_20140814_plaint...

The case is Majors . v. Jeanes and more information is available here: http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/cases/majors-v-jeanes.

Lambda Legal attorneys Jennifer C. Pizer and Carmina Ocampo are handling the case, joined by pro-bono co-counsel Paul Eckstein, Daniel C. Barr, Kirsten Eidenbach, Barry Stratford and Alexis Danneman of Perkins Coie LLP.

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Contact Info

Tom Warnke, Cell: 213-841-4503: Email: twarnke@lambdalegal.org

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