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Ariz. Gay Marriage Ban Challenged in Federal Court

A group of same-sex couples in Arizona are challenging the state's gay marriage ban. The group is arguing that the ban violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The suit was filed in Phoenix by seven same-sex couples as well as two people whose same-sex partners had died, Reuters reports.

It is the latest in a series of legal actions across the nation challenging such state bans.

Arizona Marriage Ban Challenged

Arizona is among the more than 30 states that still do not recognize same-sex marriage, Reuters reports. The lawsuit states that an Arizona constitutional amendment and state statutes that ban same-sex marriage violate federal equal protection and due process clauses.

The lead plaintiffs in the Arizona case are a septuagenarian couple from Scottsdale. Nelda Majors, 75, and Karen Bailey, 74, have been together 55 years. This couple and one other couple are seeking marriage licenses.

The remaining plaintiffs got married in other states and seek recognition of their marriages in Arizona. State recognition is important for a host of family law reasons, including child custody and adoption, as well as for estate planning and employment reasons such as eligibility for survivor benefits.

Momentum Favors Overturning Ban

Federal judges have recently struck down gay marriage bans in traditionally conservative states including Utah and Texas. The trend gained momentum following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that legally married same-sex couples nationwide are eligible for federal benefits. The High Court decision struck down a central part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

In Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer recently vetoed a bill that would have allowed business owners to claim their religious beliefs as legal justification for refusing to serve same-sex couples or any other prospective customers.

For additional guidance on the changing laws on same-sex marriage in Arizona, you may want to consult a civil rights attorney or a family law attorney.

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