An Arizona appeals court today rejected an attempt by two Phoenix men to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
The decision by the Arizona Court of Appeals was the first on homosexual marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Lawrence v. Texas, which declared the state’s prohibition of sodomy unconstitutional.
Opponents of that decision fear it will open the door to same-sex marriage, but the Arizona court’s three-member panel recognized the state legislature’s right to define marriage as between one man and one woman.
“This is a huge victory because it repudiates the first homosexual assault after the Lawrence v. Texas decision,” said Benjamin W. Bull, chief counsel with the Phoenix-based Alliance Defense Fund. “The Arizona Court of Appeals rejected any notion that Lawrence v. Texas legitimized same-sex marriage.”
“That notion has now gone into the dumpster of history with all other hare-brained notions,” he added.
Tod Alan Keltner (left) and Donald Standhardt challenged Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriages. (Photo: Arizona Republic)
The two men, Harold Donald Standhardt and Tod Alan Keltner, insisted they have a fundamental right to a marriage license, arguing the ban on same-sex marriage violates protections for due process of law spelled out in the federal and state constitutions.
However, Judge Ann A. Scott Timmer, writing for the panel, said, “Neither the United States Supreme Court nor any Arizona court has recognized that the fundamental right to marry includes the freedom to choose a same-sex spouse.”
Moreover, Timmer wrote, “although many traditional views of homosexuality have been recast over time in our state and nation, the choice to marry a same-sex partner has not taken sufficient root to achieve constitutional protection as a fundamental right.”
The court held there was a reasonable link between traditional heterosexual marriage, procreation, and child-rearing:
“The history of the law’s treatment of marriage as an institution involving one man and one woman, together with recent, explicit reaffirmations of that view, lead invariably to the conclusion that the right to enter a same-sex marriage is not a fundamental liberty interest protected by due process.”
The ruling said because the ban on same-sex marriage “rationally furthers a legitimate state interest,” the constitutional rights of the two men are not violated.
“Consequently, it is for the people of Arizona, through their elected representatives or by using the initiative process, rather than this court, to decide whether to permit same-sex marriages,” Timmer wrote.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council in Washington, hailed the decision as being “completely in line with both the historical and legal definitions of marriage.”
“Marriage has always been defined as the union of one man and one woman, and no court should feel empowered to change that,” he said.
Perkins pointed out courts in Massachusetts, New Jersey and several other states are dealing with similar cases.
“We hope they will take note of the Arizona court’s decision today,” he said. “There is no legal or historical basis for the remedy that homosexual activists are seeking: a court-mandated redefinition of marriage and family.”
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