Understanding Same Sex Marriage in Arizona

Arizona same sex marriage is not recognized under Arizona law. Gay law in Arizona doesn’t recognize domestic partnership agreements. In fact, AZ lesbian law expressly prohibits same sex unions, and does not recognize homosexual partnerships granted from other states.

The lack of domestic partnership laws in AZ make it impossible for same sex couples to marry.

Arizona law also makes it difficult for same sex couples to adopt children and turn their dreams of having a family a reality. Although gay and lesbian couples have difficulty adopting children, it can be done.

In 2011, the Arizona Legislature passed a law that encouraged the state Department of Economic Security, which oversees adoptions, to favor placing children who are up for adoption with married couples. In practice, this means that DES puts all single people, including lesbian women and gay men, at the back of the waiting list for people wishing to adopt children.

In order to adopt a child in Arizona, gay couples must try to adopt as a single person. This is because Arizona same sex marriage isn’t recognized. Adopting as a single person is difficult, however, since the 2011 law favors married couples. Gay law doesn’t exclude gay or lesbian people from adopting children, lesbian law simply makes it more difficult.

Although Arizona lacks domestic partnership laws, public opinion regarding this issue is conflicting. A 2013 poll conducted of residents across the state found that a majority support Arizona same sex marriage.

Despite this poll, Arizona residents have said at the ballot box that they don’t approve of domestic partnership agreements.

In 2008, voters approved Proposition 102, which created a constitutional amendment that declared marriage to be solely between a man and a woman. A constitutional amendment is more difficult to change than state law. This decreases the likelihood that domestic partnership laws will get approved in the future. In 2006, voters defeated a measure similar to Prop 102, showing just how conflicted residents are.

The same year voters approved Prop 102, then-Gov. Janet Napolitano signed an executive order granting state-covered benefits for same sex partners of state employees. In 2009, Gov. Jan Brewer overturned the executive order. The matter went to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that the state had to keep offering the benefits because it could not discriminate against a certain class of people.

Arizona does have a non-profit that advocates for the passage of gay laws and lesbian laws, however the group hasn’t had much luck convincing the state’s mostly conservative Legislature to pass laws favoring gay or lesbian people.

As of 2013, AZ’s Legislature had four gay and lesbian members serving in it, and a handful of other gay and lesbian elected officials served in various other elected positions. Laws change all the time, and gay and lesbian couples in Arizona may one day be able to marry and adopt children. As of 2013, however, marriage is impossible and adopting children is difficult. With many birthmothers looking for adoption options, gay couples would be natural candidates.