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Pochert believed that faith was important in the case.
He and Connolly initially wanted to sue on behalf of their freedom to exercise their religion. Their church would recognize their marriage, but their state would not. But it soon became clear that the stronger issue -- and one that might win -- was that of equal protection, a notion the couple also supported. Aiken and his legal team set about finding other couples that could be plaintiffs in the suit, both locally and across the state.
As with Joe Connolly, many of the couples came from the lawyers' personal connections. By early January, the team had seven couples. Some already had married in other states and were seeking legal recognition in Arizona. Others were unmarried and seeking the right to marry here.
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Two of the couples were from Flagstaff, three were from the Phoenix area, one was from Tucson, and one was from Pinal County. Some had children, some did not. They represented a variety of professions and ages. Aiken, Macre, and the rest of the team expected the Attorney General's Office to file a motion to dismiss their case, but, to their surprise, he filed an answer. They had seen other cases handled by unfamiliar teams lead to devastating legal consequences, and though same-sex marriage already was banned in Arizona, a failed lawsuit on the books with strong legal reasoning behind a judge's decision would make the battle harder.
But where things could have become contentious, they instead became collaborative. The Lambda attorneys partnered with a local firm, Perkins Coie LLP, and began gathering stories from their own plaintiffs -- in their case, seven couples and three widows -- and filed a similar suit, Majors v.
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Horne , in March. Jessica and Kathy Young have been together for almost 10 years and married in New York City last year. They became plaintiffs on the Majors suit, inspired by the possibility that a win might remedy the legal limbo their marital status created for their young son. Jessica gave birth to the boy using a sperm donor, but under Arizona law, this left Kathy with no legal rights. We feel that is a big part of moving the bar forward," Kathy said. Jeff Ferst and Peter Bramley had talked about filing a suit themselves but had trouble finding a legal team.
They read about the Connolly case in a newspaper and contacted the attorneys to see if they could join in. The Tucson couple describe themselves as "a little bit older. Bramley said they were interested in joining the suit "because we're at the time in life that health issues are a little bit more of a concern, and that raises a whole new area of interest. Ferst said, "Also, because we are older, I guess we are both sure of ourselves. We felt comfortable being exposed and going through the process.
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Barb Morrissey and Mish Teichner joined the Majors suit because of the healthcare rights that an overturning of the state's ban on same-sex marriage might afford them. They have been together 11 years and married in New York last year. Teichner has suffered renal failure, and Morrissey once nearly was denied access to her room in the intensive-care unit, told that only family members were allowed to enter.
Healthcare rights, parental rights, the ability to be on a loved one's death certificate. All are issues that could be resolved with a single piece of paper: a marriage license.
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Pizer and Aiken's teams worked together on legal issues and partnered with organizations including Why Marriage Matters Arizona, Equality Arizona, and the Human Rights Campaign to gather public support. Pizer said, "Every marriage case I work on -- and I've worked on many -- is very personal and consuming. You can't help but become very close to your clients. After the Ninth Circuit ruling struck down marriage bans and Sedwick ordered that all sides file their final briefings quickly, both teams only hoped the judge would be on their side.
Macre was in a bathrobe getting dressed when she received a single text: "Congratulations. Later, when she heard that Horne allowed licenses to be issued immediately, she jumped up and down in her heels and suit. Not long afterward, she watched some of the plaintiffs from her case marry and got to be a witness in one wedding. Pizer was speaking at a conference in California but jumped on a plane as quickly as she could, arriving at the clerk's office just after the first licenses were distributed.
Bramley said, "I've been introducing Jeff as my husband ever since we got married. But I think it matters to people here when we introduce ourselves that way now, because the state recognizes who we are, recognizes our relationship. I'm really hoping we can get rid of the words 'gay marriage' from our lexicon and just replace it with 'marriage. Pizer -- who proposed to her now-wife at a celebration for legalized same-sex marriage in California -- said: "To see people crying, it tells you something.
The kind of raw, honest expression of what has been denied. Macre said the victory was the biggest in her legal career: "I think part of me hasn't fully wrapped my brain around it, because it's so amazing. It's so much bigger than me, though I've always known that.
But standing at the courthouse, feeling that warmth, that love, and that support, and being a small part of making that happen, is an indescribable feeling. Connolly, the namesake plaintiff in the case that would overturn Arizona's same-sex marriage ban, was running errands on October 17 when he and his husband got the news. They scrambled downtown but accidentally went to the wrong clerk's office -- one that handles divorces, they were told. They ran around the corner to the correct office and watched as couples obtained their licenses and married just outside.
And we just sort of stood in the background. It was really starting to be a day for the rest of Arizona. On the Friday night after same-sex marriage was made legal, a celebratory gathering was held at the Southwest Conference United Church of Christ in Central Phoenix. Hundreds of people gathered into a small, packed room. Before the event began, the crowd erupted into applause lasting several minutes. Various leaders of marriage-equality groups, the attorneys in the two cases, and several of the plaintiffs spoke.
The crowd cheered as a couple in the middle of the audience held up their signed marriage certificate. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton also spoke at the event. We are a better city, a better state, because of your courage.
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It is a civil rights victory for the people of this community, not just LGBT couples. It's a civil rights victory for everyone in the state of Arizona. But, already, the group began to look to what must come next. Jenny Pizer seconded him: "We are winning here. We are winning across the country.
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And we need to take this energy, this brilliant progress, the persuasive powers that all of you are putting to work, and do the next chapter of the work. Because we are not actually done here in Arizona. Friday's decision leaves some legal gray areas.
Same-sex marriages are now recognized in the state, but it is not clear yet how this will affect some existing laws, including those surrounding adoption rights. In terms of new legislation, Pizer and many of the plaintiffs spoke of the need for enactment of state-level non-discrimination protections in housing, employment, and business for LGBT citizens.
Just because laws have changed, does not mean attitudes have, Pizer warned. They are sure to come back again. Indeed, the reaction to Friday's decision was far from universally positive. Jessica R.
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