Horne, Bisbee to compromise regarding civil unions

Horne, Bisbee to compromise regarding civil unions

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Tom Horne Tom Horne
PHOENIX -

As the battle over same sex marriage continues to remain in the spotlight nationally, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne is taking on the issue locally.

On Monday morning, Horne called several city attorneys to give them advice on what they can include in civil union ordinances without running afoul of a state law banning same-sex marriage.

His action comes after he threatened to sue the city of Bisbee for including rights to inheritance, property ownership, guardianship and others like those granted to married couples in a new ordinance. The city put the ordinance on hold earlier this month to re-craft it to avoid a suit.

Horne says his office will work with Bisbee to make the changes that are needed.

"The ordinance will be rewritten and we have an agreement that a lawyer from our office will participate with their lawyer in doing the rewriting so that hopefully both parties will be satisfied," said Horne.

Still, a national group that seeks full legal rights for gay, lesbian and transgender people issued a legal analysis Monday saying Bisbee's law is, in fact, legal. The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund says Bisbee clearly may recognize relationships in the ways granted in the ordinance.

"By itemizing the kinds of commitments the city recognizes and facilitating a public record of those agreements can help couples because it reduces and kinds of challenges or confusions," said Lambda senior counsel and law and policy project director Jennifer Pizer.

"There's no dispute that the goal here is to have an ordinance that takes some new creative steps to provide recognition for families."

The Bisbee ordinance lets people in same-sex relationships receive city benefits and register contracts, conferring things like wills and guardianship with the city.

"If people do enter into these private arrangements and they want to have that recorded at the city as a kind of a formalization, perhaps a celebration, perhaps a way of making a record of the fact they have entered into these agreements and we have no problem with that at all," said Horne.

"It will be a good thing if other Arizona cities follow suit and there's a number of cities that have expressed interest in doing that," said Pizer.

The Attorney General has not expressed an opinion on the issue of same-sex marriage.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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