State Attorney General Tom Horne says he'll file a federal action to halt a Bisbee ordinance legalizing civil unions for same-sex couples if the City Council approves it tonight.
The proposed ordinance (see full text below) would grant same-sex couples who enter into an official civil union the same legal benefits as married couples. The council passed the measure unanimously during a first reading last month.
A clerk at Bisbee Mayor Adriana Badal's office tells us that it's going to be a long night at City Hall. The regular council meetings begins at 7 p.m., and other business is on the agenda besides the civil-union proposal. Though last month's action didn't attract much criticism, things are different now because of all the recent media attention, the clerk says. The names of people wanting to speak at the meeting goes on for three pages.
Horne sent a letter to the mayor and council today warning that he'd received complaints about the proposal from Bisbee's three state legislators, and that he's prepared to take legal action to stop it.
Horne claims that he's "not expressing any opinion on the policy of the ordinance. My job is to enforce the laws that exist, and I am obligated to respond to complaints from state legislators."
That may or may not be true, from our humble point of view. After all, Horne could conceivably tell the state legislators that he'll review their complaint, then do nothing -- if that's what he wanted to do.
But Horne says the proposed ordinance is clearly out of the small city's league. Horne's letter to the city says:
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The ordinance seeks to change seven separate State statutes within the boundaries of the city, dealing with issues such as community property, inheritance of property, and appointment of personal representatives. The only proper way to change a statute is through the Legislature, not through actions of the City Council attempting to change a State statute within its boundaries.
Horne, with Governor Jan Brewer, also tried to block the voter-approved Arizona Medical Marijuana Act -- which he said also was unconstitutional -- by filing a federal complaint. But the attempt ended in failure, and not without some embarrassment for Horne's office following a federal judge's rebuke.
Full text of the ordinance follows:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF BISBEE,
COUNTY OF COCHISE, STATE OF ARIZONA, AMENDING THE CITY CODE
BY ADDING ARTICLE 17, BISBEE CIVIL UNIONS, AND PROVIDING FOR
REPEAL AND SEVERABILITY
WHEREAS, the Mayor and Council of the City of Bisbee support the right of every person to enter into a lasting and meaningful relationship with the partner of his or her choice, regardless of the particular sexual orientation of that partnership; and
WHEREAS, the City of Bisbee seeks to end discriminatory practices against members of the lesbian, bi-sexual, gay, and transgender community; and
WHEREAS, the City of Bisbee, pursuant to the authority granted to it under its City Charter, has all of the express or implied powers granted to it under the laws of the State of Arizona and that authority which is not prohibited by the Constitution of this State; and
WHEREAS, while the Constitution of the State of Arizona imposes restrictions on the institution of marriage, neither it, nor the other laws of this State impose similar restrictions on the application of civil unions; and
WHEREAS, to the full extent of its authority to do so, and to no further extent, the City of Bisbee hereby exercises its authority to express its support for ending discrimination against all persons on the basis of their sexual orientation and hereby exercises those powers which it may exercise to seek to put an end to discriminatory practices within the City of Bisbee; and
WHEREAS, it is in the best interest of the City of Bisbee to refuse to continue to remain silent on this issue, in the face of discriminatory practices that are inconsistent with the principles upon which our country was founded, and to take such actions as are within its authority to alter this situation,
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED BY THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF BISBEE, COUNTY OF COCHISE, STATE OF ARIZONA, THAT:
Section 1. The amendments to Chapter 17, Bisbee Civil Unions, of the City Code of the City of Bisbee, as stated in the attached Exhibit A, incorporated herein by reference, are hereby adopted as an amendment to the City Code of the City of Bisbee.
Section 2. All prior resolutions, ordinances, and policies are hereby repealed to the extent of any conflict with this Ordinance.
Section 3. If any section, subsection, sentence, clause, phrase or portion of this Ordinance is for any reason held to be invalid or unconstitutional by the decision of any court of competent jurisdiction, such decision shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions.
PASSED, APPROVED AND ADOPTED by the Mayor and Council of the City of Bisbee on this __ day of ,2013. APPROVED: Adriana Z. Badal, Mayor