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Arizona initiative seeks state constitutional ban of same-sex marriage

Arizona initiative seeks state constitutional ban of same-sex marriage

A leader of a drive to amend the Arizona constitution to prohibit same-sex marriages said Tuesday the measure is needed to keep activist judges from undermining the foundation of civilization. Members of the Protect Marriage Arizona campaign filed their initiative with the secretary of state's office on Monday and scheduled news conferences in three cities Tuesday--a year to the day that Massachusetts started permitting same-sex marriages--as they began collecting signatures. They need the signatures of 183,917 registered voters to put the measure on the November 2006 ballot. Even though Arizona law already outlaws same-sex unions, marriage opponents say more is needed to protect the sanctity of families. The proposed amendment would also bar state and local governments from giving legal status to any unmarried couple. The drive puts Arizona among at least a dozen states considering 2006 ballot measures on the marriage issue. All 11 states with constitutional bans on the ballot last November approved them. The Arizona court of appeals upheld the state's existing law prohibiting same-sex marriages in October 2003. The Arizona supreme court later effectively upheld that ruling by declining to review it. According to the Family Research Council of Washington and Holland, Mich., 43 states have laws banning recognition of same-sex marriages, including 17 with constitutional language. A critic of the Arizona measure said opponents can finalize plans for a counter-campaign now that wording of the expected initiative has been released. Keith Susman, cochair of the political and legislative affairs committee of the Arizona Human Rights Fund, said the provision prohibiting government recognition of the legal status of unmarried couples would affect domestic-partner benefits granted to employees of Phoenix, Tucson, and other local governments. "It's a mean-spirited measure to take away people's rights that they currently have," Susman said. "There are gay families that are dependent on these benefits, families with children. They are really going to be harmed by it." Recent surveys found Arizona voters to be sharply divided on whether to amend the Arizona constitution to ban same-sex marriages. Last month the Republican-led legislature approved a measure urging Congress to pass a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. (AP)

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