Same-Sex Marriage Advocates Hope To Win Minds And Votes

September 17, 2013

A public campaign to get a majority of Arizonans to support gay marriage made its debut Tuesday morning. Supporters hope to win the public opinion battle, with an eye toward the 2016 election.

couple At the podium, Nelda Majors and Karen Bailey are a lesbian couple who have been together for more than 50 years. (Photo by Nick Blumberg-KJZZ)

It is called Why Marriage Matters Arizona. The group is led by organizations including Equality Arizona, the Human Rights Campaign and the local American Civil Liberties Union. The grassroots campaign will share the stories of gays and lesbians and make the argument that they ought to be allowed to marry.

 While it is only an education campaign right now, supporters are thinking about getting same-sex marriage on the ballot in 2016. Rebecca Wininger is president of Equality Arizona. She said a win here could be something of a tipping point for same-sex marriage in other states.

“I also think it will begin to repair some of the national damage we’ve had to our reputation of being a very intolerant state,” Wininger said.

One of the group’s supporters is attorney and former National Council of La Raza chair Daniel Ortega.

“The civil rights of Latinos and of the LGBT community are fundamentally related. The Latino community must join forces with other civil rights leaders and LGBT allies to stand strong against any injustice," Ortega said.

The group has raised $150,000 to start. Even though Arizona voters approved a ballot measure against same-sex marriage in 2008, organizers behind Why Marriage Matters said they may try to reverse that in 2016.

Ortega Daniel Ortega is a supporter of Why Marriage Matters Arizona. (Photo by Nick Blumberg-KJZZ)

Cathi Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy opposes same-sex marriage, though she told Capitol Media Services there has been some demographic change since the 2008 ban.

“This is a generation that's grown up with TV show after TV show, movie after movie promoting same-sex relationships being equivalent to marriage [and] that redefining marriage is a good thing," Herrod said.

But Herrod thinks their views will change as younger voters get married and have children.

Despite opposition to same-sex marriage from Herrod and plenty of others in Arizona, Why Marriage Matters said it plans to reach out across political and religious lines, and it is partnered with Freedom to Marry, a national organization that is spearheading a state-by-state strategy for gay marriage rights.

As of this summer, the group said it spent $1 million on its marriage campaign and hopes to raise $2 million. Arizona’s on a list of nine states from which Freedom to Marry will choose its 2016 gay marriage battlegrounds.

KJZZ's Dennis Lambert and Nick Blumberg contributed to this report.

Updated 9/17/2013 at 3:47 p.m.

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