same sex marriage in arizona

Same-Sex Marriage in Arizona: A Legal Transformation

In the heart of the southwestern United States, Arizona has undergone a significant transformation in recent years regarding same-sex marriage. This article explores the legal history, restrictions, and developments surrounding same-sex marriage in the Grand Canyon State.

Legal History


The journey toward marriage equality in Arizona began in 1975 when the state legislature passed a bill defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. This move came after the Arizona Supreme Court invalidated a marriage license issued to two men by a county clerk in Phoenix. In 1996, the state legislators went a step further by passing a ban on same-sex marriage and the recognition of same-sex marriages performed outside of Arizona. This ban was signed into law by then-Governor Fife Symington.

Despite these statutory bans, significant changes were on the horizon.

Constitutional Amendments

Arizona voters twice considered constitutional amendments aimed at denying marriage rights to same-sex couples. In 2006, Proposition 107, which sought to ban same-sex marriage and any legal status similar to marriage, was defeated by a slim margin, departing from the national trend that saw several other states approve similar amendments on the same day. In 2008, Proposition 102 passed, defining marriage in Arizona as “the union of one man and one woman.” Unlike Proposition 107, Proposition 102 did not ban civil unions.

However, these amendments faced opposition and eventually paved the way for a more inclusive approach.


Federal Cases

On January 6, 2014, four same-sex couples filed a class-action lawsuit challenging Arizona’s definition of marriage as unconstitutional. This lawsuit, known as Connolly v. Roche, was a pivotal moment in the state’s journey toward marriage equality. Additionally, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit, Majors v. Horne, on behalf of seven same-sex couples and a widow and widower. These cases led to a historic decision.

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Legal Victory

On October 17, 2014, U.S. District Judge John W. Sedwick ruled in both Connolly and Majors cases, declaring Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional and ordering the state to stop enforcing the ban. Attorney General Tom Horne announced that the state would not appeal the ruling, instructing county clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples immediately. This decision marked a significant turning point in Arizona’s stance on same-sex marriage.

Developments After Legalization

Supreme Court Ruling

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Obergefell v. Hodges, issued a landmark ruling guaranteeing same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. This decision solidified marriage equality across the United States, including Arizona.

Current Stance

Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022 by the U.S. Supreme Court, Governor Doug Ducey indicated that he was “not interested” in revisiting the issue of same-sex marriage. This reaffirmed the state’s commitment to marriage equality.

Native American Nations

Legal Diversity

While same-sex marriage is legally recognized on the reservations of several Native American nations in Arizona, it is explicitly prohibited in others. This diversity in legal stances reflects the unique cultural and legal complexities within these sovereign nations.

Two-Spirit Marriages

Historical Practices

Some Native American tribes in Arizona historically recognized two-spirit individuals, who often bridged gender roles. These individuals could enter into marriages that did not conform to the traditional binary understanding of marriage. This cultural diversity demonstrates the rich history of acceptance and fluidity in gender and marriage roles within indigenous communities.

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Demographics and Marriage Statistics

Changing Landscape

Data from the 2000 U.S. census to 2005 revealed a growing number of same-sex couples in Arizona, indicative of a societal shift toward greater acceptance and visibility of these partnerships. Same-sex couples were found in all counties, with Maricopa, Pima, and Pinal counties having the highest numbers.

Domestic Partnerships and Civil Unions

Alternative Options

In response to legal challenges and changing attitudes, some cities in Arizona have introduced domestic partnerships and civil unions for same-sex couples. These options provide alternative pathways to legal recognition and benefits, although they fall short of full marriage equality.

In conclusion, Arizona’s journey towards marriage equality has been marked by legal battles, shifts in public opinion, and a recognition of the unique cultural diversity within the state’s Native American nations. While significant progress has been made, the road to full equality continues, and the legal landscape surrounding same-sex marriage in Arizona remains dynamic.


  1. Is same-sex marriage still legal in Arizona? Yes, same-sex marriage is legal in Arizona following the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015.
  2. How did Native American nations in Arizona approach same-sex marriage? Native American nations in Arizona have diverse stances on same-sex marriage, with some recognizing it while others prohibit it.
  3. What is the history of two-spirit marriages in Arizona’s indigenous communities? Two-spirit marriages were historically practiced among some Native American tribes in Arizona, allowing for unique gender and marriage roles.
  4. Are domestic partnerships and civil unions available for same-sex couples in Arizona? Yes, some cities in Arizona offer domestic partnerships and civil unions as alternative options for legal recognition and benefits.
  5. What impact did the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges have on Arizona? The Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges ensured that same-sex marriage is legal and recognized nationwide, including in Arizona.

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