The Arizona supreme court on Tuesday left intact the state's ban on same-sex marriages as the justices turned away a gay couple's appeal challenging the law. By not hearing the appeal, the justices without comment let stand a court of appeals ruling that upheld the ban. The couple's appeal argued that the ban on same-sex marriages discriminates against gay couples and their children, violating the Arizona constitution. Don Standhardt and Tod Keltner of Phoenix asked the supreme court on December 8
to review the appeals court decision upholding Arizona's 1996 state law prohibiting same-sex marriage. On Tuesday, Standhardt said he was disappointed by the court's decision against hearing the couple's appeal. "With it being a pressing civil rights issue here, we thought they would see the injustice in the law being what it is," he said.
The couple's lawyer did not immediately return a call for comment, but Standhardt said the couple might have recourse in federal courts. However, a lawyer for a conservative group that filed a legal brief supporting the ban said the couple's appeal was based on state constitutional law, so there would be no grounds to appeal in federal courts. "As far as I know, this was decided under state law, and this is where it ends for Arizona," said Gary McCaleb of the Alliance Defense Fund. "The [court of appeals] ruling reflects well-established law."
The couple's appeal argued that the justices should hear the case because barring gay couples from civil marriage discriminates against the couples and their children in violation of state constitutional rights of privacy and equal treatment under the law. The appeals court ruled October 8 that there is no fundamental constitutional right to same-sex marriage. It found that the state has a rational basis for
prohibiting same-sex marriage because of goals related to procreation and child-rearing. The attorney general's office urged the supreme court to turn away the appeal and let the appeals court ruling stand. The ban was based on legislative policies and not discrimination, staffers with the office said. Standhardt and Keltner were denied a marriage license in Maricopa County, according to the lawsuit filed July 7.
The high court's action came amid political and legal maneuvering on the same-sex marriage issue in Arizona. In the Arizona legislature, gay-marriage opponents hoped to force a senate vote on a stalled measure approved by the house that would urge Congress to pass a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. A proposed state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage died months ago in the current legislative session. Last week, in a move that a leader said could lay the groundwork for a religious-freedom legal challenge to Arizona's ban, four ministers unsuccessfully asked Maricopa County officials to legalize dozens of gay marriages the clerics performed during the weekend. That action came one day after thousands of gay-marriage opponents rallied at a state capitol plaza. Opponents said their opposition to same-sex unions was motivated by a desire to strengthen families, not hatred or discrimination.