Lesbian Couple First to File For Formal Civil Union in Arizona

By Jase Peeples

Originally published on Advocate.com July 07 2013 4:07 PM ET

Kathy Sowden and Deborah Grier made history on July 5 when they became the first same-sex couple in Arizona to have their relationship legally recognized as a civil union, reports KGUN TV.

Bisbee, a small town in Arizona, was the first city in the state to approve same-sex civil unions. The new legislation was put into practice 30 days after the Bisbee City Council approved an ordinance legalizing civil unions for same-sex couples on June 4, 2013. Shortly thereafter, Tucson followed suit and also wrote civil unions into Tucson’s city law.

"It's not marriage 100 percent, but it protects us a little more” said Sowden. “We've had friends who have had major problems when one of them has been ill.”

Sowden and Grier’s civil union allows them to claim a few of the privileges that married couples enjoy, including the ability to make medical decisions for one another when necessary. Additionally, Grier says having their relationship legally recognized in some form is a relief. "I think it didn't feel a whole lot different but just the knowledge that somebody will actually recognize our union of 21 years."

In 2008, Arizona voters approved Proposition 102, which bans same-sex marriage in the state by defining marriage as a “union of one man and one woman.” However, a new amendment is expected to be placed on the 2014 election ballot which would replace the current definition with a gender-neutral definition.