Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne withdrew a threat to sue the city because of the ordinance passed April 2 that contained controversial language seemingly at odds with a 2008 state constitutional amendment passed by voters that states: "Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state."
The Bisbee ordinance originally said same-sex couples would be recognized as "spouses" and granted gay couples the right to property inheritance and other benefits currently afforded only to heterosexual couples within city limits.
Horne, a Republican, said the language could lead to confusion for gay couples in Bisbee because the state amendment takes legal precedence, meaning couples might assume property inheritance and other rights were bestowed when applying for the city's civil union status when, legally, they are not, The Arizona Republic said Monday.
Lawyers working with the city council from the pro-gay marriage group Lambda Legal said the city will omit the "spouse" reference in favor of "family partnership" or "registered partnership." Other references to rights prohibited under the state constitution will be dropped.
Instead, the city will work with gays and lesbians to help them enter into civil contracts such as wills and healthcare proxies -- already available to any citizen -- when they apply for civil union status.
The compromise provides a template for other municipalities in the state seeking to offer some form of legal recognition for same-sex couples. Officials in Tempe, Ariz., said they are considering adopting a similar law in that city.