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Gay Marriage in Arizona: Lawsuit Challenges Ban

Four same-sex couples filed a lawsuit against Arizona's gay marriage ban in federal court this January.

The lawsuit argues that Arizona's gay marriage ban violates the couples' constitutional rights to equal protection and due process. The same-sex couples who initiated the lawsuit allege that Arizona wrongfully denied their spousal privileges, like pension benefits and survivorship rights, according to the Associated Press.

How does Arizona's gay marriage lawsuit compare to the ones in other states?

Due Process and Equal Protection Rights

Like similar same-sex couples in Utah, these Arizona couples are arguing that the state's gay marriage ban violates their 14th Amendment rights to due process and equal protection. Like many other suits challenging same-sex marriage bans, the suit alleges that marriage is a fundamental right and having the government deny that right is unconstitutional.

The Arizona lawsuit is also arguing that ban violates equal protection by excluding gay couples who seek to marry. The district court will likely review the marriage ban under rational basis review to determine if the marriage ban does violate the couples' rights. This kind of legal test asks courts to determine if there's any rational connection between the government's interests in banning gay marriage and the marriage laws themselves.

If the court finds that the Arizona gay marriage ban denies same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the law, then the law could be overturned.

Gay Marriage Lawsuits Across the Country

Although the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to rule on the merits of gay marriage in all states, several states, including Utah and Texas have filed lawsuits in hopes of overturning their state's gay marriage ban. Utah's ban on same-sex marriages was briefly overturned by a federal court but is currently in force while the case is awaiting appeal.

Currently, the U.S. Department of Justice recognizes gay marriages in Utah, even though the state doesn't. Like Utah, Arizona's gay marriage ban was voted by residents to be added to the state's constitution, so even if the Arizona lawsuit is successful, the state is very likely to appeal.

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