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Sat, Dec. 07

Editorial: Sea change in gay equality trumped Arizona law

More than a year ago, in May 2013, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne marched into Bisbee to warn the free-thinking town residents they would be in big trouble if they adopted their proposed civil-union ordinance.

They were undermining the state constitution, he claimed. Such an ordinance might even have gays thinking they could actually get married in Arizona, a voter-approved, one-man-one-woman-marriage state.

The law was not on Horne's side in that municipal interference, but he seemed to be pumped up at the thought that the majority of public opinion was. The theory followed that the higher courts would be, too.

But something was happening. Other towns followed Bisbee's lead. Horne has had to spend a great deal of time defending the state statute that was once a point of pride for Arizona voters. Advocates for same-sex marriage pushed those very courts for equality well beyond any civil-union politicking.

Public opinion cannot be trusted to stay in one place for long. It is why the U.S. Constitution is built to trump public opinion and politics.

Whatever advocates were doing, whatever other states and appeals courts were doing, and whatever Arizona municipalities were doing, it was the inaction of the U.S. Supreme Court that spoke the loudest in the sea change of gay equality. Right out the window went the assumption of many attorneys general that the justices would love to jump into the fray and side with conservative voices.

With the Supreme Court refusing to review similar cases in other states, the writing was on the wall in big legal letters.

Friday, Horne did exactly the right thing in telling court clerks to issue same-sex marriage licenses upon request. The quick capitulation probably saved the state a few dollars in unnecessary legal expenses.

In the end, the attorney general did not even have public opinion on his side on an issue that once seemed all sewn up, the debate over, majority rule established. Who knew? More than a year ago, maybe Bisbee.

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