Arizona City Flaunts State, OKs Same-Sex Civil Unions

Bisbee threatened with legal action

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 3, 2013 7:26 AM CDT

(Newser) – Local bumper stickers hail Bisbee, Arizona, as a "liberal oasis in a conservative desert," and the small city made good on that reputation last night: Despite warnings from the state's attorney general, it became the first in the state to legalize same-sex civil unions. After three hours of debate, the City Council voted 5-2 in favor of the move in the presence of 100 opponents and supporters, the Arizona Republic reports. Though just hours before the vote AG Tom Horne threatened to take legal action if the ordinance was approved, a city attorney says he doesn't think Horne has a "real case" and says he'll defend Bisbee if needed.

Though same-sex marriages are banned in Arizona, voters rejected a 2006 proposal that would have barred local governments from creating such a legal status for gay couples. "We are not trying to change the laws of Arizona," the city attorney says. "In a limited capacity, the city of Bisbee is able to act and will do what it can within the areas that city controls." That includes things like benefits for partners of city employees, hospital visitation rights for same-sex partners, and the ability to get a family pass to the city swimming pool, Reuters reports. The ordinance is set to go into effect next month, at which point couples will be able to pay $76 for a civil union certificate that will only be valid inside limits of the city, which is home to 5,600 people.

A group carries a rainbow flag as they take part in a march honoring Martin Luther King Jr., Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, in San Antonio.
A group carries a rainbow flag as they take part in a march honoring Martin Luther King Jr., Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, in San Antonio.   (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
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