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Supporters of same-sex marriage urge AG to stop defending state’s ban

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PHOENIX – Delivering more than 5,000 petition signatures in a little red wagon, supporters of gay marriage called Thursday for Attorney General Tom Horne to drop his defense of the state’s ban.

The wagon belonged to the daughter of Phoenix couple Kevin Patterson and David Larance, plaintiffs in one of two pending lawsuits challenging the ban.

The couple said they joined the petition effort because they want equal rights as parents. Larance was unable to formally adopt their two daughters because of state law.

“For their safety and the right to protect their future, it really does hinge upon us being able to raise them as a cohesive family,” Patterson said.

The petition drive came a day after U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy granted a temporary hold on Tuesday’s ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court overturning Idaho’s ban on gay marriage. Kennedy gave the plaintiffs until Thursday evening to file a response.

Arizona is part of the 9th Circuit, so the outcome of the ruling would affect this state’s cases.

Jeremy Zegas, project director of Why Marriage Matters and organizer of the petition drive, said a vast majority of the signatures came in the last day.

“Right now Attorney General Horne is the biggest impediment towards allowing committed, loving same-sex couples the freedom to marry,” he said. “We’re hoping he’ll step aside as the attorneys general of 11 states have already done so that couples can move forward and make a lifetime commitment to the person they love.”

Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for Horne, said the office appreciates that people on both sides of the marriage debate have deeply held beliefs.

“But as attorneys for the state, we have to defend and enforce the laws as they’re written, and as the law’s written right now, gay marriage is unconstitutional,” she said. “So until a court rules otherwise and we have to determine our next step, we’re in a holding pattern.”

Grisham said even if the U.S. Supreme Court lifts the stay, the Attorney General’s Office would still have to wait for a ruling from U.S. District Judge John Sedwick, who is hearing both of Arizona’s cases.

“We can’t appeal something that hasn’t happened yet,” she said.

Connolly v. Roche and Majors v. Horne, both filed this year, challenge Arizona’s law refusing to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages and a provision of its Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. They contend that both violate equal protections under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

Heather Macre, an attorney representing same-sex couples in Connolly v. Roche, said her team filed a motion with supplemental authority on Tuesday in hopes of persuading Sedwick to rule on the case according to the 9th Circuit ruling “sooner rather than later.”

Back at the petition drop, David Larrance helped load petitions into his daughter’s wagon. He said the momentum in the higher courts makes him hopeful for marriage equality in Arizona.

“I think it’s going to trend the way we see these things always trend. They start slowly, they gain quickly and then they sort of taper off at the end,” he said. “One of the exciting things is that it doesn’t look like Arizona is going to be at the tail end of that.”