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Arizona town pulls new civil unions law to make changes, avoid lawsuit

Civil Unions

By Scottie Thomaston

At EqualityOnTrial, we recently covered the Arizona town of Bisbee’s decision to offer civil unions for its residents who are in same-sex relationships. At the time, the state’s attorney general, Tom Horne, said that the law is unconstitutional. He pledged to file a lawsuit against its enforcement, while conservative Christian groups in the state said that the new law is an end-run around the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. According to initial reports, however, the law would only apply to benefits the city itself actually had control over.

On Saturday, the Bisbee City Council put the new civil unions law on hold, until it can undergo a review and some changes that would ensure it doesn’t violate the state’s marriage equality ban. According to reports, the language they are excising from the law addresses “community property, inheritances, appointment of guardians and disposition of remains after death,” which they say were the provisions that angered socially conservative Arizonans and the state’s attorney general.

But the attorney general’s office hinted that they may drop the lawsuit if these changes are made:

A spokeswoman for Horne said the decision likely means a lawsuit expected to be filed next week won’t be necessary.

“If they tweak it, to where the ordinance breaks no state laws, we will have no reason to sue,” spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said.

The Attorney General said the ordinance violated parts of a 2008 voter approved state constitutional ban on same-sex marriages.

His office suggested that their concern is that people who enter into civil unions in Bisbee might think they are entitled to certain benefits from the state, but the new law would not reach beyond the city limits.

The lawsuit attacking the law was expected to be filed this week.

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