Sponsored by


Note: This story is more than 5 years old.

Gay marriage licenses issued in every Az county

In the week since Arizona’s bans on same-sex marriage were overturned, clerks in all 15 of the state’s counties say they have issued at least one marriage license to same-sex couples.

Not all counties have kept track of licenses to same-sex as opposed to opposite-sex couples, but it appears that about 300 of the newly legal licenses had been issued in the first few days after the court ruling.

That means that state coffers have benefited along with same-sex couples: At $76 a pop, licenses to those couples had already brought in an estimated $20,000 or more in fees.

'The gays aren’t using up all the marriage licenses. There is plenty of room for marriage for all.'

While the court ruling was a victory for gay-rights advocates, it was quickly attacked by groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom, which last week called it “a terrible decision” that it vowed to fight.

One of its first post-ban actions was a memo to county clerks throughout Arizona, telling them that they have the right to deny issuing licenses to same-sex couples for religious reasons and instructing them in how to do it.

But for the majority of clerks, the memo seems to have gone unheeded.

Evan Wolfson, president of the national marriage-equality organization Freedom to Marry, said he has “not heard of any clerk disrespecting their oath and their job duty” by refusing to issue a license.

Thanks to our donors and sponsors for their support of local independent reporting. Join Gawain Douglas, Hilda Oropeza, and Marvin Kirchler and contribute today!

Every county in Arizona has reported issuing at least one marriage license to a same-sex couple since the ban was overturned, though not all kept specific numbers.

Pima County officials, who said they issued 25-30 licenses on an average day, have handled 275 request for licenses since the ban was lifted. On the first day, Oct. 17, Pima County issued 86 licenses and another 57 the following Monday.

Why isn't Pima County tracking the number of marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples?

"That's discrimination," said Pima County Court Clerk Toni Hellon. "A marriage license is a marriage license, period. They're all the same as far as we're concerned."  

Maricopa County officials, who said they issue 98 marriage licenses on an average day, issued 292 licenses the first day and another 184 the following Monday – a net increase of 280 licenses over the regular volume. They did not immediately have numbers for the rest of this week.

The Williams Institute, a California-based think tank, estimated this summer that 7,909 same-sex couples would marry in Arizona in the first three years if the state’s ban was lifted. That would bring in more than $600,000 in license fees to the state if the numbers held true.

But the Williams Institute said the greater tax benefit would come from wedding spending by same-sex couples. Once taxes are collected on spending for wedding festivities, out-of-town guests and the like, the take could reach more than $5 million for the state over the three-year period, according its estimate.

The institute based its June estimate on 2010 Census data, the American Community Survey, and other data sources.

Last week’s ruling followed a rapid series of court decisions that have led to the legalization of same-sex marriage in more than 30 states so far.

On Oct. 6, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down appeals of five rulings from lower courts that had voided bans on same-sex marriage in different states. The next day, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned bans in Nevada and Idaho.

Support TucsonSentinel.com today, because a smarter Tucson is a better Tucson.

U.S. District Judge John Sedwick cited the circuit court’s ruling – Arizona is in the 9th Circuit – and gave parties in two different cases challenging Arizona’s same-sex marriage bans several days to argue why he should not overturn the ban.

On Oct. 16, he ruled that an amendment to the Arizona Constitution and two state laws banning same-sex marriage were unconstitutional violations of equal protection.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said Oct. 17 that he disagreed with the ruling but would not challenge it, saying the higher courts’ rulings made an appeal an “exercise in futility.”

“The only purpose served by filing another appeal would be to waste the taxpayer’s money,” Horne said then. “That is not a good conservative principle.”

Same-sex couples started heading to courthouses in Arizona to get married that afternoon.

While opponents have vowed to keep fighting, supporters say they are confident same-sex marriage in Arizona is here to stay.

“The gays aren’t using up all the marriage licenses,” Wolfson said. “There is plenty of room for marriage for all.”

TucsonSentinel.com’s Maria Coxon-Smith contributed to this story.

- 30 -
have your say   


There are no comments on this report. Sorry, comments are closed.

Sorry, we missed your input...

You must be logged in or register to comment

Read all of TucsonSentinel.com's
coronavirus reporting here »

Click image to enlarge

Sierra Oshrin/Cronkite News

Michael Berg and Rodney Eckersley display their marriage license outside Maricopa County Superior Court on the same day a federal judge overturned Arizona’s same-sex marriage bans. The two said they had waited 18 years for the right to marry.

License to bill

County clerks in Coconino, Maricopa, Pima, Yavapai and Yuma counties said they did not track the number of same-sex couples who took out marriage licenses, but all issued at least one – and perhaps hundreds for some. Licenses to same-sex couples as of Wednesday:

  • Apache County, 1
  • Cochise County, 6
  • Gila County, 1
  • Graham County, 1
  • Greenlee County, 1
  • La Paz County, 1
  • Mohave County, 7
  • Navajo County, 1
  • Pinal County, 9
  • Santa Cruz County, 1