Arizona Goes Rogue

Despite touting a libertarian ethos and gorgeous landscape, the state has become a wasteland for human rights, unsafe for women, LGBTs, and people of color.

BY Victoria A. Brownworth

September 06 2013 3:00 AM ET


Above: Governor Jan Brewer; LGBT Libertarians celebrate Pride; Maricopa County jail tent city

The law was finally ruled unconstitutional by a federal appellate court in May of this year. However, the attorney for Maricopa County, home to the state capital, is appealing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, noting “the compelling and important interest Arizona has in protecting the health and well-being of expectant mothers from the dangers of abortions after 20 weeks and to protect children in the womb from needless and horrific imposition of pain.”

On July 23, lawyers representing Arizona asked a federal judge to dismiss a legal challenge to another restrictive Arizona abortion law. HB 2443 bans abortions based on the race or gender of the fetus. The law is being challenged by the NAACP and National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, who argue the law is unconstitutional and unfairly targets black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, and Pacific Islander women, preventing them from obtaining abortions.

HB 2443 is the only abortion law in the country restricting abortions based on gender or race. Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne defended the law, saying it is actually civil rights legislation because it protects minorities and “disfavored genders.”

The NAACP argues that the law violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and is attempting to have the law permanently blocked. Lawsuits are ongoing.

Arizona’s previous anti-Big Government stance has increasingly become one of intrusion into citizens’ private lives — LGBT citizens among them. According to a November 2011 Public Policy Polling survey, Arizona voters were evenly split on the issue of marriage equality, with 44% supporting, 45% opposing, and 12% undecided. In addition, 72% of Arizona voters supported legal recognition of same-sex couples.

Those numbers were not reflected in the voting booths. Prop 102, also known as the Marriage Protection Amendment, passed overwhelmingly on the same ballot that elected Obama president. The 56% to 43% vote officially amended the Arizona Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Brewer was a proponent of Prop 102.

Yet Arizona allowed benefits for same-sex partners of state employees when then-Gov. Napolitano signed an executive order granting the rights. Then, in September 2009, Brewer vitiated Napolitano’s executive order and signed HB 2013, a new statute that made domestic partners of state employees ineligible for health benefits. The statute and an injunction filed against it in federal District Court were enmeshed in an ongoing lawsuit, Diaz v. Brewer, until June 27, when that case was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court—the day after their rulings on the Prop 8 and DOMA cases. The court rejected the appeal sought by Arizona, which means domestic partners of state employees are now eligible to receive benefits.

Brewer slammed the decision in a statement: “This case has never been about domestic partners, same-sex or otherwise. It has always been about the authority of elected state officials to make decisions with which we have been entrusted by the voters.”

Brewer has argued that the state’s fiscal crisis meant the state couldn’t afford to extend benefits to unmarried couples. Lambda Legal attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that the policy was discriminatory because heterosexual couples could marry, while same-sex couples could not.

Arizona’s burgeoning extremism is spilling across state borders into California — in legal matters at least. On the same day the Supreme Court ruled on the Arizona discrimination case, the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian group dedicated to countering the “homosexual agenda” co-founded by anti-gay zealots Donald Wildmon (founder of the American Family Association) and James Dobson (founder of Focus on the Family), filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against allowing marriages to continue in California after the Supreme Court’s ruling June 26 vitiating Prop 8.

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