State House signals gay marriage position
Yuma-area lawmaker Rep. Jim Carruthers says he opposes same-sex marriages, but is unsure how he will vote on a resolution backed by the Arizona House urging Congress to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. The House gave its preliminary approval Thursday.
"I'm going to have to do some soul-searching on this," Carruthers said. "Not because of my stance on marriage, it's just that I'm not sure this should be a constitutional amendment."
The proposal could possibly receive a final vote as early as Monday or Tuesday.
Even though Arizona law already outlaws same-sex mar- riages, supporters of the resolution said an amendment to the U.S. Constitution would help to prevent judges from overturning such prohibitions, protecting the sanctity of families.
"It's a postcard sent from us to the president and the federal government to express what the majority of the people feel, at least in the Legislature," Carruthers said. "I believe in the Constitution and think some pretty brilliant people wrote it, so amending it for this type of purpose, I'm not sure fits with what I think is best."
The Republican lawmaker added that he thought it would best if the individual states were left to determine their own marriage laws.
"I have my own views on what marriage should be, and it pretty much fits within the conservative view, but I'm not sure about this," Carruthers said.
Opponents said the measure treats gays and lesbians differently from heterosexuals and that its backers are pandering to the religious right in an election year.
Yuma's other representative, Democrat Amanda Aguirre, could not be reached for comment Friday.
Lawmakers rejected a change to the resolution that would have required couples to present evidence that they are able to have children before they can get married.
Hundreds of gays, lesbians and their supporters rallied at the state Capitol on Thursday over President Bush's call for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
They carried signs, cheered their political allies and vowed to mobilize voters in Arizona to oppose not only the president, but also state legislators.
Sen. Bob Cannell, who also represents the Yuma area, said he wouldn't support such a proposal if a similar resolution were to come before the state Senate.
"I'd vote against it," said Cannell in a phone call from Colorado, where he was vacationing. "I don't think we need to change the Constitution on this and I think it infringes on states' rights to ask the federal government to make an amendment."
Cannell said he doesn't know where he stands on the issue of gay marriages, but added that he thinks there should be some formal way for same-sex couples to get privileges similar to those granted married couples get.
Wellton resident Sherry Smith, who recently announced her intentions to seek one of the district's two state House of Representative seats up for grabs later this year, said she wouldn't have supported the amendment either, adding it's a case of too much government.
"I was raised on the Bible, so the subject of gay marriages is a very gray area to me," Smith said. "But I also think it would be interfering with people's constitutionally-guaranteed right to make their own lifestyle choices. This is tough for me because even if I don't believe in same-sex marriages, I can't tell someone else it's not right for them."
James Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6854.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.