For Arizona, Three’s a Crowd

All eyes are on California’s battle for marriage equality, but two other states also are facing ballot initiatives this November -- and folks in John McCain’s home state are starting to feel ignored.

BY John Gallagher

August 26 2008 11:00 PM ET

In the 10 years
since Alaska passed a constitutional amendment banning
marriage equality, 25 other states have followed suit. But
in 2006, Arizona voters bucked the trend, defeating a
proposed amendment that would’ve banned
same-sex marriage -- and barred unmarried straight
couples from receiving domestic-partnership benefits. The
win gave gay rights activists nationwide hope that
they too could prevail at the ballot box.

Now that hope is
being put to the test in California, Florida, and once
again, Arizona, which all face ballot initiatives against
same-sex marriage this election cycle. But while
donations are pouring in to defeat the initiatives in
the first two states, money is only trickling into
Arizona’s gay rights groups. Timing is partly to
blame: The Arizona measure didn’t qualify for
the ballot until June 27, compared to June 3 in
California and February 1 in Florida. But a bigger factor
could be the perception that Arizona’s antigay
Proposition 102 is bound to win at a time when
Republican John McCain, the state’s senior U.S.
senator, is running for president. On July 28, McCain
told the Associated Press that he doesn’t
“believe what is decided in California should be
imposed on my state of Arizona.” He could very
well get his wish. If donations and attention are the
currency of this campaign, marriage equality advocates
could be up a creek.

“We’re hearing from individuals who have the
money to fight these things that they’re giving
to California and Florida because they feel like they
can win there—and are skeptical about our chances
here,” says Robert Tindall, a Phoenix human
resources consultant and board member for the
state’s American Civil Liberties Union. Adds Rebecca
Wininger, a member of the Phoenix chapter of Parents,
Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, “To
say that one fight is more important than another dismisses
the other fights.”

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