Gay Rights 2013: Support For Gay Marriage Growing in Conservative State of Arizona


A Rocky Mountain Poll released on Tuesday shows that the majority of people in Arizona support same-sex marriage.

According to a press release accompanying the poll: "After years of beating the drums against same-sex marriage, opponents of the idea in Arizona appear to be losing their grip on public attitudes toward the issue. By a ratio of 55% to 35%, Arizonans say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry."

Support was highest amongst Latinos and Democrats, 75% and 70% in favor respectively, while it was lowest amongst Republicans and non Latino minorities, with only 36% support in both groups. The poll represents a further sign of changing attitudes across the nation.

Arizona currently has a constitutional ban on gay marriage. After originally being defeated in 2006, it was enacted in 2008. Although same-sex marriage was already against the law in Arizona, the amendment to the constitution further cemented it, making it harder to challenge. Despite this, however, support for marriage equality in Arizona is growing, as the legalization of same sex marriage continues its spread across the country with Minnesota the latest state to legalize it.

Arizona's Republican Governor Jan Brewer is an outspoken opponent of marriage equality, while Representative Matt Salmon, a Republican from Arizona, recently reaffirmed his opposition to same sex marriage, despite having a gay son. Last year, however, Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, an outspoken advocate for same sex marriage, became the first openly bisexual member of Congress, beating her opponent by 10,000 votes. As GOP political analyst Kris Mayes argues, having won a district with almost equal numbers of Republicans, Democrats, and independents, Sinema is "representative of a changing Arizona." And even some Arizona politicians who oppose same-sex marriage see the changing attitudes in support of it as "inevitable."

Just last month a group of prominent Arizonans performed a public reading of a play in support of same sex marriage. The play, entitled "8," was written by Dustin Lance Black, screenwriter for the film Milk and is based on the closing arguments of the Perry vs. Schwarzenneger lawsuit in California which led to Proposition 8 being overturned and to the current Supreme Court challenge. Participants included Cindy McCain, wife of Arizona's Republican Senator John McCain and a strong supporter of marriage equality, Republican and former Arizona attorney general Grant Woods, and Democratic state senator Jack Johnson Jr. 

Also in April, the city of Bisbee in Arizona became the first city in the state to allow civil unions between same-sex couples. Risking legal action, Bisbee's city council voted five to two in favor of the measure, which council member Gene Conners calling it "a big step in the right direction." State Attorney General Tim Horne said that the city council had "no authority to pass the ordinance" and that he would seek to have it blocked in court. The measure, however, is still an important symbol of changing attitudes to same sex marriage in the state.

While Governor Brewer's opposition and a Republican controlled legislature mean that Arizona is unlikely to follow Minnesota and become the 13th state to legalize same sex marriage, there is growing evidence that Arizonans are increasingly in favor of marriage equality and that it is only a matter of time. Overturning the constitutional ban on gay marriage will not be easy, but the present trend is encouraging.