Linking the issues of gay marriage and domestic partner benefits in a single ballot measure is not illegal, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled Thursday.
Judge Douglas Rayes rejected arguments by foes of Proposition 107 that the measure is unconstitutional because it restricts the rights of voters: If they want to ban same-sex marriage, they also have to vote to outlaw civil unions and bar governments from offering benefits to the partners of their employees.
Rayes acknowledged that polls show more public support to defining marriage as between one man and one woman than for the ban on benefits. But he said that does not make it illegal to tie the two issues together — and to force voters to approve or reject the entire package.
“The two clauses of the proposed amendment have but one purpose, the protection of marriage by preventing redefinition and extension of official status to marriage substitutes,’’ the judge wrote.
Attorney Charles Blanchard filed an appeal late Thursday with the Arizona Supreme Court. He said Rayes is misreading the law.
“The whole purpose of the single subject rule is to prevent someone taking a topic that is really popular and attaching to it provisions they know they couldn’t get without attaching it to the very popular provisions,’’ he said.
He pointed out that while the same-sex marriage ban is popular, “the public does not want to ban domestic partner benefits.’’
But attorney Glen Lavy of the Alliance Defense Fund, representing backers of Proposition 107, said Rayes recognized that the initiative is “a clear, straightforward proposition with one purpose: Protecting marriage.’’
Lavy said that goal could not be met if the measure had to be divided into separate measures. He said it would do no good to constitutionally declare marriage in this state to be defined solely as between one man and one woman if lawmakers or even judges could essentially create “marriage imitations’’ by giving the same rights to unwed couples, whether of the same or opposite sex.
Blanchard acknowledged that challenges to identical and similar amendments in other states have been rebuffed by courts there. But he said Arizona has more stringent requirements for constitutional amendments to deal with only a single subject.
He also said the record in Arizona shows that the issues can — and have — been dealt with separately.
State lawmakers voted in 1996 to statutorily ban recognition of same-sex marriages, whether performed in Arizona or elsewhere. But three years later, the Legislature refused to ban state and local government agencies from offering domestic partner benefits.