The Small Southwestern Town That Went Rogue

A small southwestern town goes rogue for same-sex unions.

BY Clea Kim

May 20 2013 4:00 AM ET

Bucolic Bisbee

Bisbee, a small community that’s home to many artists, has become the first municipality in Arizona to approve any form of legal recognition for same-sex relationships, spurring swift opposition from state officials.

The City Council in Bisbee, a town of about 5,600 residents, in April adopted an ordinance establishing civil unions for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, going into effect in May. It allows couples to receive a civil union certificate for a $76 fee at the city clerk’s office, granting them the same rights and benefits as married couples, but only those that are within the city’s purview, such as access to benefits for city workers’ partners, family discounts at municipal recreation facilities, and certain land-use rights.

Arizona’s Republican attorney general Tom Horne believes the ordinance violates the state’s constitution, which limits marriage to opposite-sex couples, and said he planned to file a lawsuit before the ordinance goes into effect. He said he’s not taking a stand against civil unions themselves, but he contends the council exceeded its legal authority. Bisbee city attorney John MacKinnon said that because the city is establishing civil unions, not marriage rights, it is not going against state law.

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