The tide has been turning slowly yet steadily for supporters of marriage equality in the United States. 19 states have legalized same-sex marriage, and judges in 13 states have struck down attempted bans on marriage equality. According to Freedom to Marry, nearly 44% of the U.S. population lives in a state with legalized marriages for same-sex couples, with an additional 2% of the population living in a state with civil unions or domestic partnerships.
Although Arizona remains one of several states with a ban on same-sex marriage in place, a recent ruling suggests that law may be overturned sooner than expected. U.S. District Judge John Sedwick, a visiting judge assigned to a civil case in Arizona, recently ruled that the state must acknowledge the marriage between at least one same-sex couple. The case involved Fred McQuire and George Martinez, an Arizona couple who were married in California earlier this year after being partners for more than 40 years. Martinez died a month after the marriage, raising questions about listing McQuire as a spouse on the death certificate and the allocation of financial benefits.
Sedwick ruled that the couple had not been married long enough to receive benefits, but still acknowledged the couple’s marriage as legitimate. He called for Arizona to recognize the marriage, arguing McQuire would otherwise suffer emotional harm and a violation of rights.
According to Queerty, the language used in Sedwick’s ruling — although narrowly applied to one couple — could be applied to the case surrounding the state’s overall same-sex marriage ban. In the ruling, Sedwick refers to the federal courts that have upheld marriage bans, claiming “none of these decisions are persuasive.” He also describes Arizona’s law as discriminatory.
Sedwick’s ruling in this specific case is being viewed in a larger context because McQuire’s request was part of a lawsuit in which 19 people challenged Arizona’s marriage ban. Sedwick is also presiding over that case, which has yet to receive a decision. Given the judge’s strongly-worded opinions in regards to marriage equality, however, it appears as if Arizona’s ban is likely to be overturned.
Even if the law is overturned, the battles for same-sex couples in Arizona and elsewhere will be long and filled with lawsuits. Still, it seems inevitable that supporters of marriage equality will emerge victorious.