Saturday, September 13, 2014

THE FIRST GAY MARRIAGE IN ARIZONA

It’s a groundbreaking decision.  The U.S. District Court, on Friday, ruled that Arizona must recognize the California marriage of Fred McQuire and George Martinez. 

Both McQuire and Martinez were Vietnam veterans who lived in Arizona.  First, McQuire was diagnosed with prostate cancer (caused by exposure to Agent Orange during his service in Vietnam); and in June of this year, Martinez was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  He was given only a few months to live.  The two had been partners for over 40 years and had made a lifetime commitment to each other.  With time running out, they traveled to California and were married.  They then filed an emergency motion asking the Court to require Arizona to recognize the marriage so that McQuire could be listed as a spouse on Martinez’s death certificate.  Martinez died on August 28, 2014.  The Court’s landmark ruling makes them the first same-sex couple whose marriage is legal in this state.

The Gay Marriage issue is more than a philosophical argument.  Marriage has important legal consequences.  A married spouse is entitled to protections not granted to someone who is cohabiting.  If you are married and your spouse dies, you could be legally entitled to a portion of your deceased spouse’s estate, and you may be entitled to veteran’s benefits and Social Security survivor’s benefits.  If you are married and file for divorce, you will be legally entitled to half of the community property accumulated during the marriage.  You may also be entitled to spousal support.  On the other hand, if you are cohabiting but are not legally married, you are entitled to none of these things.  If your partner dies you are not entitled to his/her veteran's or social security benefits, and you have no legal rights to the estate unless specifically provided by a Will.  When a cohabiting couple splits up, there is no community property, and you will not be eligible for spousal support even if your role was to give up your job and stay home to care for the children for the past twenty years.

Among those opposing Gay Marriage is the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the state of Arizona at the hearing.  Attorney James Campbell summed up their position with these words:  “The integrity of the state’s marriage definition, which has existed since the state’s inception is of the utmost importance.  It can’t change it, not even for one person.”  But that kind of twisted logic cannot withstand scrutiny.  Marriages between Blacks and Whites were illegal at the inception of Arizona’s statehood, too -- and I'm sure there were those who argued that the prohibition should remain on the books because it had always been there, and that changing it would violate the sanctity of marriage -- yet we had the good sense to invalidate such an inhumane law.  The ban on same-sex marriage is equally prejudicial, as well as unconstitutional, and it will be the next to fall.  That was made clear by Federal Court Judge John Sedwick who, in explaining his decision, wrote: 

“The court has not yet decided whether there is a conflict between Arizona law and the Constitution, but the court has decided that it is probable that there is such a conflict and that Arizona will be required to permit same-sex marriages.”

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court heard arguments last week in same-sex marriage cases out of Idaho, Nevada, and Hawaii.  Whatever ruling it makes will apply to Arizona.  Over the past few years, one Federal Court after another has invalidated bans against same-sex marriage.  Soon almost half the states in the U.S. will have legalized Gay Marriage.  The issue may ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, but the writing is already on the wall.


The Gay Marriage debate is about dignity and human rights.  But it is about more than that.  It is also about legal rights and the protection that the law affords couples who are married.



The Law Office of Gary J. Frank has been a fixture in the Biltmore area of Phoenix, Arizona for over thirty years.  Gary Frank is a Family Law litigator, a mediator, and a former Judge Pro Tem.  Our firm handles a wide array of cases, such as divorce, domestic partnerships, custody, relocation, paternity, child and spousal support, division of property and businesses, modification and enforcement actions, grandparent and non-parent rights, and all matters relating to families and children.  If you are in need of a consultation, please do not hesitate.  Contact us today.  You can reach us by telephone at 602-383-3610, or by email at gary.frank@azbar.org, or through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  We'd be honored to help you.