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Same-sex marriage supporters wait on 9th Circuit after Supreme Court move

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PHOENIX – Supporters of gay marriage said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision against reviewing appellate court rulings that legalized same-sex marriage in five states is a sign that Arizona’s ban may not stand much longer.

“This shows that there’s broad and growing support for the freedom to marry here in Arizona and throughout the country,” said Jeremy Zegas, project director for Why Marriage Matters Arizona. “And this is just another step that hopefully gets us closer to full marriage equality throughout the country and end marriage discrimination.”

A pending decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on bans in Nevada and Idaho would apply to Arizona and two other states in the circuit that have banned same-sex marriage: Alaska and Montana.

The Supreme Court’s move effectively legalized same-sex marriage in 11 states. It was already legal in 18 states and the District of Columbia.

The high court announced it would let three appellate court decisions stand, making same-sex marriage legal in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Kelley Dupps, training director for HERO, or Human and Equal Rights Organizers, said courts wait for decisions from other courts to see what they will do.

“Today the Supreme Court telegraphed a great message to other courts that marriage equality is here to stay and it’s in 30 different states,” Dupps said.

But the Alliance Defending Freedom, a faith-based advocacy group, said in a written statement that the people, not the courts, should make a decision on same-sex marriage.

“The court’s decision not to take up this issue now means that the marriage battle will continue. Several federal courts – including those in the 5th, 6th, 8th and 11th circuits – still have cases working their way to the Supreme Court,” the statement said.

Same-sex marriage supporters are also waiting on two federal lawsuits filed in the U.S. District Court of Arizona that challenge an Arizona constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman and state law that ban same-sex marriage.

“Right now we’re just sort of in a waiting game for those, as we are with the cases from the 9th Circuit,” Zegas said.

Three weeks ago, a federal judge issued an emergency order in one of those cases, requiring Arizona to recognize the California marriage of Fred McQuire and George Martinez. Martinez died of pancreatic cancer and McQuire wasn’t able to receive some of Martinez’s benefits in Arizona. The court is still expected to make a broader ruling on same-sex marriage.

Dupps said the emergency order for McQuire is a promising sign of what’s to come in Arizona but that there’s still a lot to be done.

“Marriage equality is just one piece of that puzzle,” Dupps said. “You can be fired being LGBTQ (in Arizona) or simply looking like you belong to that community, and that’s not right.”

Dupps said HERO will continue fighting for those issues. Meanwhile, same-sex marriage supporters wait on both the 9th Circuit and federal court rulings.

“We’re patiently waiting for our turn at the fountain of freedom, as it’s called,” Dupps said.