Gay marriage effort in Ariz. pushed back

Sept. 10, 2013 at 2:58 PM
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PHOENIX, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- An effort to put a pro-gay marriage ballot initiative before Arizona voters will be delayed from 2014 until at least 2016, organizers said.

The decision came after a deep divide among same-sex marriage supporters, some of whom wanted to press ahead with a 2014 effort while others said waiting an extra two years would offer a greater chance of passage, The Arizona Republic reported Tuesday.

The 2014 effort was led by Equal Marriage Arizona, a grassroots group the leaders of which said they didn't have enough support from national LGBT groups to continue pressing for a 2014 vote.

"The various LGBT advocacy groups in the state and nationally announced they weren't going to throw their support behind the initiative," said Equal Marriage Arizona co-chair Erin Ogletree Simpson, a retired Tucson attorney who chairs the Log Cabin Republicans of Arizona. "Without their help, we aren't able to do it."

Equal Marriage Arizona had only collected a fraction of the 259,000 signatures required to get the measure on the ballot.

Other gay rights groups said holding off until 2016 makes more sense. In presidential election years turnout is higher, generally a more favorable climate for liberal groups. Also, it allows for a demographic shift to taken further hold. Young people overwhelmingly support allowing gay couples to marry and waiting until 2016 means more of them are eligible to vote. It also allows for a sustained fundraising and organizational effort that rushing to put it in the 2014 ballot would prevent.

"There has really been concern about strategy, support and fundraising," said Sheila Kloefkorn, who serves on the national board of the Human Rights Campaign. "We know what the sting of defeat feels like, and we can't afford another defeat. While support is high, it's not quite what we would need it (to) be for 2014."

Arizona voters in 2008 passed a measure defining marriage as "between one man and one woman." The same-sex marriage initiative seeks to change that definition to "a union between two people."

Conservative groups hailed the decision by pro-gay marriage groups to call off the 2014 campaign as a victory.

"The so-called equal marriage campaign could not overcome the support for one-man and one-woman marriage," Center for Arizona Policy President Cathi Herrod said in a statement. "Redefining marriage is a nonstarter today in Arizona."

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