Lawsuit Challenges Arizona's Ban On Same Sex Marriage

March 13, 2014

(Photo by Alexandra Olgin-KJZZ)
Jennifer Pizer of Lambda Legal announced a federal lawsuit challenging Arizona's ban on same sex marriage Thursday morning in Phoenix.

Lambda Legal has filed a federal marriage lawsuit on behalf of seven same sex couples and two surviving spouses in Arizona. The suit is challenging Arizona’s ban on same sex marriage.

Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel from Lambda Legal, said Arizona is violating the U.S. Constitution by not recognizing these marriages.

“Arizona recognizes and respects all other out of state marriages. It’s only the marriages of same sex couples that are denied respect, and that’s an equality problem," Pizer said.

Pizer said another part of the legal argument is that by denying recognition of these unions, the state is violating the principle of equal protection under the law.

Barb Morrissey and Mish Teichner are one of the couples in the suit. They were married in New York last year, but Arizona does not recognize their union. Morrissey said it is not fair that she has to carry legal documents about their relationship when heterosexual couples do not. And even when she brings the papers, the state doesn’t always find them valid.

“Last January, Mish had a kidney transplant, and I went to see her in the hospital. And the nurse is bringing me to the room, and she said only immediate family members are allowed in the room," Morrissey said. "I told her that I had all the legal documents, and she said, 'Well that doesn’t really matter, but I’ll try to sneak you in anyways.'”

Morrissey said she wants to be able to advocate for her wife while she is in the hospital.

The Alliance Defending Freedom opposes the lawsuit. The group said this case is just another in a long line of attacks on marriage across the country.

Lambda Legal is involved in cases testing marriage laws in Virginia, West Virginia, Nevada and Indiana. This litigation is separate from the Arizona class action marriage lawsuit filed in January.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been modifed to reflect the proper spellings of Lambda Legal and Barb Morrissey.

Updated 3/17/2014 at 11:04 a.m.