Marriage recognition is currently a man-and-wife only affair in The Grand Canyon State, thanks to a constitutional amendment passed in 2008.
But as gay marriage recognition is seeing increasing public support, there’s a new effort in Arizona to modify the state’s definition to allow for same-sex couples, and this new effort is being led by a libertarian and a Republican. Equal Marriage Arizona, co-chaired by libertarian blogger and business owner Warren Meyer and Arizona Log Cabin Republican caucus chair Erin Ogletree Simpson, filed their petition Monday and have begun collecting signatures to bring it to a vote.
The wording of the initiative is very simple: It changes the definition of recognized marriages in Arizona from a man and a woman to two people, gender neutral. An added section declares that religious organizations will not be obligated to solemnize or officiate at such ceremonies.
I spoke with Meyer briefly earlier today about his involvement. He said he worked with Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson’s campaign and had gotten involved with the Our America Initiative, the pro-liberty group Johnson formed prior to his run for president. Meyer said the group contacted him to see if he would be interested in taking on leadership of an initiative effort in Arizona, and he agreed. Johnson, too, has declared his support for the effort and is listed as an honorary chairman for Equal Marriage Arizona.
Asked whether Arizona’s conservative political reputation meant this push had a better chance succeeding if it came from the right, Meyer agreed, though emphasized this is a nonpartisan effort.
“This is an individual liberty issue, and we’re hoping to get to the point in Arizona that people are okay with this with addition of some liberty protection,” he said.
He attributed federalism as a key reason why attitudes toward gay marriage are evolving.
“I think the federalist experiment has helped,” he said. “These other states have done it and things turned out of fine. It helped people have comfort to discuss it and it all worked in our favor. I think we’ve permanently moved to the point where Arizona is in support of equal marriage.”
A poll from April by the Behavior Research Center backs up Meyer’s claim. Despite passing a constitutional amendment a mere five years ago, 55 percent of Arizona voters now say they support gay marriage recognition.
Asked about the libertarian argument that we should eliminate government licensing of marriage entirely, Meyer agreed that it would be the preferred solution in an ideal world, but in the absence of that outcome, he’ll push for equitable application of policy.
“I went through the Arizona revised statutes, he said. “For just spouses, they’re mentioned 1,135 times in more than 350 separate pieces of legislation. We’ve embodied special privileges for marital status throughout the legal code. … We live in a world where recognized marriage carries all sorts of responsibilities and privileges under the law and the only way to equalize that is to have marriage recognition.”
Equal Marriage Arizona will need just shy of 260,000 signatures by July 3 to make the ballot, but Meyer said they’re shooting for 400,000, just to be sure.
Meyer was interviewed by Reason TV in 2010 for a completely unrelated matter: His business is responsible for privately managing parks in Arizona. Watch our interview with him here about the privatization of parks management and visit his blog here.