Lambda Legal Urges Court to Strike Down Arizona Marriage Ban Immediately

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October 15, 2014
Lead plaintiffs Karen Bailey and Nelda Majors

Lambda Legal today urged U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick to issue an immediate ruling striking down Arizona’s discriminatory marriage ban.

Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Jennifer C. Pizer said:

Nelda and Karen have been waiting since the Eisenhower Administration; the time is now. None of these loving and committed couples should have to wait even one day longer for the equal treatment that the Constitution promises. The indelible writing is on the wall, both with the 9th Circuit ruling and last week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court not to review circuit court rulings out of the 4th, 7th and 10th Circuits striking down similar bans in five states nationwide. Equality plus liberty add up to marriage for same-sex couples here in Arizona, too.

Lambda Legal’s filing follows last Tuesday’s ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals striking down discriminatory marriage bans in Nevada and Idaho, which came just a day after the announcement from the U.S. Supreme Court denying review of seven marriage lawsuits from the 4th, 7th and 10th Circuits that had struck down discriminatory marriage bans in Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Utah.

Love Unites US: Arizona

Following that action, state officials from West Virginia and Colorado announced that they, too, would no longer prevent same-sex couples from marrying and federal judges have subsequently struck down bans in North Carolina and Alaska.

Pizer added:

After last week’s blizzard of rulings and announcements, same-sex couples can now marry or have their legal marriages recognized in 30 states, a jump of almost 60 percent in just ten days. There is no reason Arizona cannot be the 31st and provide the privileges and protections of marriage to our clients and to same-sex couples and their families across the state.

The lead plaintiffs in Lambda Legal’s lawsuit Majors v. Jeanesfiled this past March, are Nelda Majors, 75, and Karen Bailey, 74, of Scottsdale, have been together for more than 57 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: four couples from Phoenix; 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; Kathy and Jessica Young, 41 and 29 respectively, together for almost 10 years, married in New York, and the parents of an eight-year-old son, Ian; and Patrick Ralph, 60, whose husband, Gary Hurst, died in August, 2013; three couples from Tucson; Kelli and Jennifer Hoelfe Olson, 36 and 38 respectively, together for 10 years, married in Minnesota and the mothers of twin two-year-old girls; Kent Burbank, 45, and Vicente Talanquer, 51,  together for 20 years, married in Iowa and the fathers of two adopted boys, Daniel, 12, and Martín, 14; and Josefina Ahumada, 68, whose wife, Helen Battiste, died in January; and one couple from Tempe, CJ and Jesús Castro-Byrd, 23 and 27 respectively, together for two years and married in Seattle.

In August, Lambda Legal added an eighth couple to the complaint, Fred McQuire, 69, and George Martinez, 62, of Green Valley, and asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona to compel the State to recognize their marriage immediately, as George was terminally ill with pancreatic cancer. George died in late August, and on September 12, 2014, Judge Sedwick granted Lambda Legal’s subsequent motion to compel the State to issue an accurate death certificate listing Fred as George’s surviving husband.

In addition to these individuals, Equality Arizona, the leading statewide organization advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (“LGBT”) people and their families in Arizona, is an organizational plaintiff representing the state’s nearly sixteen thousand same-sex couples and the more than five thousand children in Arizona with same-sex parents.

Today’s filing in the case is available here.