Conservative media stars Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter are scheduled to help launch a national effort to amend the U.S. Constitution to prevent gay marriages at an event this weekend in Mesa.
Three days after the lawyer for a gay Phoenix couple announced he will ask the Arizona Supreme Court to overturn a ban on same-sex marriages, the institution of marriage is reserved for a man and a woman at a weekend conference in Mesa.
Hannity and Coulter will appear together at 7:15 a.m. Saturday for a $1,000-a-plate private breakfast designed to raise funds for the Defend Marriage and Family Campaign, which seeks to champion the principle that marriage is a union between a man and a woman only. A conference will follow. Coulter will appear at a dinner Friday.
The event will come on the heels of Tuesday's decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court that said such unions are legitimate in that state. In the wake of that ruling, a Phoenix couple has also decided to appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court to uphold same-sex unions in the state. An Arizona appeals court ruled against them previously.
Saturday's event will feature many prominent conservative politicians. U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., ex-gubernatorial Republican candidate Matt Salmon, and state Sen. Mark Anderson and state Reps. Chuck Gray and Russell Pearce, all of R-Mesa, are among those expected to appear at the conference at Mesa Centennial Center and the Sheraton Phoenix/East Hotel and Convention Center in Mesa.
"We're stressing the importance of marriage between a man and woman," said Heather Sandstrom, a spokeswoman for conference sponsor United Families International, which is based in Mesa. "It's really timely."
But proponents of same-sex marriage said the conference's message is wrong.
"It's a pure issue of equality," Kathie Gummere of the Arizona Human Rights Fund said Tuesday, noting a similar argument was used 40 years ago to prevent interracial marriage.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled Tuesday that same-sex couples must be given equal civil marriage rights under the state constitution and allowed the state Legislature 180 days to change the statutes accordingly.
Michael S. Ryan, the lawyer for Phoenix residents Harold Standhardt and Tod Keltner, who were denied an Arizona civil marriage license in July, said Tuesday he will ask the Arizona Supreme Court to overturn last month's Court of Appeals decision that upheld the state's ban on same-sex marriage.
Gummere applauded the Massachusetts decision. Recognizing civil marriage doesn't obligate religious institutions to recognize or perform marriage ceremonies, she said; it refers only to a couple's “rights, duties and obligations” under state law.
“Offering the right to marry to more citizens who want to marry can only strengthen marriage as an institution,” she said. “It certainly doesn’t weaken it.”
But Gilbert resident Sharon Slater, president and founder of United Families International and another speaker at the conference, said changing the definition of marriage “could result in disastrous consequences to the nation and the world.”
Dennis Durband of United Families UFI said the organization has lobbied the United Nations for abstinence education in Africa, and it plans to become more active lobbying its “pro-family” bent to affect state and national policy, such as the constitutional amendment initiative.
To amend the U.S. Constitution, a proposal must pass both houses of Congress the U.S. Legislature by a two-thirds majority or a national convention called by Congress at the request of two-thirds of the state legislatures. The amendment then must be ratified by at least 38 state legislatures or state constitutional conventions.
Hannity co-hosts the Fox News program “Hannity & Colmes,” has a successful syndicated radio show and is the author of “Let Freedom Ring: Winning the War of Liberty Over Liberalism.” Coulter's books include “Slander: Liberal Lies” and “Treason,” which stirred controversy among liberal critics after its release this year.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report.