Push For Gay Marriage Ends, Though Some Say Measure Was Flawed From The Start

September 10, 2013

Gay rights advocates in Arizona are explaining why they did not back an effort to legalize marriage for homosexual couples. A Republican and Libertarian-led group trying to get the issue on the ballot called it quits this week, saying more established gay rights organizations withheld support -- but the proposed initiative may not have had any teeth. 

After two major Supreme Court rulings this summer that boosted gay rights, organizers of Equal Marriage Arizona said they would start collecting signatures for a 2014 ballot measure. But Monday they announced the effort was dead, saying that more established gay rights groups in the state would not offer their support.

“When someone new steps in that we’ve never heard of or seen before, we want to know who they are and where they’re coming from," said Melanie Puskar-Blakely, who chairs the Phoenix LGBT rights group HERO. It originally supported the measure and helped gather signatures.

"After some meetings with legal counsel, it was brought to our attention that the wording may actually not obtain what we hope to obtain here in the state as far as equal marriage goes,” said Puskar-Blakely.

That is because heterosexual marriage is written into Arizona’s constitution and was passed into law by the voters several years ago. Puskar-Blakely said the measure as written would not address both. Her group withdrew its support two weeks ago after raising its concerns with initiative organizers and hearing nothing back.

There is also the question of timing. Sheila Kloefkorn is a member of the Human Rights Campaign’s national board who lives in Arizona.

“Doing a ballot initiative in 2014, you have less voter turnout," Kloefkorn said. "We felt like [educating] Arizonans about the importance of marriage takes a little time, and our chances for success are a lot higher in 2016, in a presidential election year.”

Opponents of gay marriage celebrated today’s announcement, but the effort to change Arizona’s marriage laws may not be dead. An announcement could come in the next couple of weeks.

Updated 9/10/2013 at 5:04 p.m.

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