On January 6, 2014, four same-sex couples filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court challenging Arizona’s same-sex marriage ban. Connolly v. Brewer (D. Ariz. 2014).
This is the latest in a series of legal challenges following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor last June. In Windsor, the Court found Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, to be unconstitutional. Thirty-two states have DOMA-like state laws or constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. This case is one of 25 lawsuits filed against same-sex marriage bans in 16 of those states.
Arizona’s same-sex marriage ban began in 1996 when the state legislature passed a law defining marriage as between one man and one woman. In 2008, Arizona voters approved proposition 102, making the ban part of the state’s constitution.
Arizona’s law also prevents the state from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. Two of the couples named in the suit were legally married in other states.
The lawsuit cites Windsor and argues that Arizona’s definition of marriage is unconstitutional because it denies same-sex married couples equal protection and due process under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Arizona employers should keep an eye on this case. If the court finds the definition of marriage unconstitutional, employer policies and benefit-plan administration will be significantly affected. Such a decision would also affect how certain benefits are taxed at the state level.