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Arizona governor wants early vote on gay marriage ban

Arizona governor wants early vote on gay marriage ban

Rather than wait for the November 2006 election, Arizona governor Janet Napolitano believes voters should decide this year whether there should be a state constitutional ban on gay marriages. Napolitano's idea would require a special election. Two months ago conservative social activists and key state lawmakers said they would pursue a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages in Arizona. Republicans have chastised Napolitano's move as a political ploy to keep a gay marriage referendum off the 2006 ballot because it could bring more conservative voters to the polls. "This is political chicanery. She doesn't want it on the ballot in 2006 because it brings out the wrong people for her," said senate president Ken Bennett, a Republican from Prescott. "It's not so much urgent as it is important. To spend about $3 million in taxpayer money to have a special election when far fewer people will vote is wrong." The secretary of state's office has estimated that a statewide special election this year would cost up to $4 million. Arizona is among 38 states with a Defense of Marriage Act, which limits marriage to one man and one woman. The purpose of a constitutional amendment would be to prevent a judge in Arizona from overturning the ban. "You've already have a law on the books, and you already have the courts speak on it," said Dennis Burke, the governor's chief of staff. "So the question to those guys is, Why are you doing this? The governor is asking them, 'If it's so urgent, let's do it in 2005."' State representative Mark Anderson, a Mesa Republican, said a legislative vote on the 2006 referendum should take place soon. "The idea is to get it done early and get it out of here," he said. "An amendment in the state constitution is much stronger than a simple statute. This sends a good message." Sen. Ken Cheuvront, one of two openly gay state lawmakers, said the same-sex marriage ban is pure politics. "The reality is that Republicans are doing this to embarrass her [Napolitano]," said Cheuvront, a Phoenix Democrat. "By them waiting until 2006, it shows their hypocrisy. This will be a very contentious issue, no matter when it happens."

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