Arizona Prohibited From Enforcing Same-Sex Marriage Ban, but There's a Catch

UPDATE 11:14 a.m.: Same-sex marriage is now legal in Arizona. Click here to read the latest updates.

A federal judge declared Arizona's laws against same-sex marriage unconstitutional and issued an order prohibiting officials from enforcing those laws.

However, there's currently one person standing between same-sex couples and Arizona marriage licenses -- Attorney General Tom Horne.

See also: -Legal Same-Sex Marriages in Arizona Could Take Place by Year's End Due to Ruling

Horne, who's been defending the Arizona laws in this case, has scheduled a press conference for 10:30 a.m. today in which he'll announce whether he's going to appeal this ruling or instruct county court clerks to stop denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

This sudden uncertainty over Arizona's laws banning same-sex marriages is the result of another case in federal court.

According to U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick's ruling that Arizona's ban is unconstitutional, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals "recently ruled that substantially identical provisions of Nevada and Idaho law that prohibit same-sex marriages are invalid because they deny same-sex couples equal protection of the law, the right to which is guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States."

The federal court that's hearing Arizona's case is bound to the decisions of that appellate court, thus, Arizona's bans are struck down.

"A stay of this decision to allow defendants to appeal is not warranted," Sedwick's order states. "It is clear that an appeal to the Ninth Circuit would not succeed. It is also clear--based on the Supreme Court's denial of petitions for writs of certiorari filed in connection with several circuit court decisions which held that same-sex marriage must be recognized in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin--that the High Court will turn a deaf ear on any request for relief from the Ninth Circuit's decision."

This ruling overturns two Arizona laws -- one is a ban on same-sex marriages passed by the Legislature, and another is an amendment to the Arizona Constitution, which was passed by voters, that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Although the matter hasn't been settled, those who fought Arizona's laws are celebrating a victory.

"Today we celebrate the court's recognition that every individual in Arizona has the freedom to marry the person they love," ACLU of Arizona executive director Alessandra Soler says in a statement. "We hope that Attorney General Tom Horne will honor the court's ruling and allow marriage licenses to be issued immediately."

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley