Arizona Must Recognize Gay Vet’s Marriage

     PHOENIX (CN) – Arizona must recognize the California marriage of a gay military veteran whose husband died of cancer in August, and allow the vet to be named as the survivor on his husband’s death certificate, a federal judge ruled Friday.
     U.S. District Judge John Sedwick granted Fred McQuire’s request for recognition of his marriage to George Martinez, 62, who died Aug. 28 of pancreatic cancer.
     The couple, who were together for 45 years, married in July in California after learning of Martinez’s diagnosis. They met in Arizona in 1969 when McQuire, now 69, was serving in the Air Force.
     “The court has not yet decided whether there is a conflict between Arizona law and the Constitution, but the court has decided that it is probable that there is such a conflict so that Arizona will be required to permit same-sex marriages,” Sedwick wrote.
     Arizona banned same-sex marriage in 1996, and a voter-approved initiative in 2008 amended the state constitution to include the ban.
     “First, defendants argue Arizona’s man/woman marriage laws do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Yet, the reason why couples such as McQuire and Martinez may not marry is precisely because of their sexual orientation,” Sedwick ruled.
     He also found that McQuire’s constitutional rights were violated because he would likely suffer emotional harm by being denied status as Martinez’s husband.
     In a declaration in support of his previous request for recognition of his marriage, McQuire claimed that when he tried to complete paperwork for Martinez’s burial benefits he was told he would not be recognized as his husband. He met the same response when he tried to handle the arrangements for Martinez’s cremation and apply for his death certificate, and was told Martinez’s sister would have to complete the papers.
     “Even though this ruling is for George and me, I hope this is going to help other families, too,” McQuire said in a statement. “No one else should have to deal with the pain and humiliation of not being able to take care of something as simple and sensitive as a death certificate for their spouse.”
     Los Angeles-based Lambda Legal filed the motion for Martinez and McQuire in August – before Martinez’s death – seeking recognition of their marriage.
     “Today’s order means that Fred can grieve his husband with dignity and a lot less worry about his own future,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, senior counsel for Lambda Legal. “The way the state has fought this simple issue of awarding a disabled vet the respect he deserves is shameful.”
     As part of his request , McQuire claimed that he would be able to apply for survivor’s benefits from the Social Security Administration and the Veterans Affairs Department. McQuire suffers from chronic pulmonary disease and Parkinson’s disease, and relied on Martinez’s income to help pay their mortgage.
     Sedwick agreed with the state that even with state recognition of McQuire’s marriage to Martinez, he will not be eligible for any veteran’s benefits.
     “[T]he provision which controls provides that to obtain benefits, the surviving spouse must have been married to the deceased veteran for a period of ‘one year or more.’ McQuire was married to Martinez for less than a year, so he is not qualified to obtain any veteran’s benefits as a result of Martinez’s death,” Sedwick wrote.
     Center for Arizona Policy President Cathi Herrod said Sedwick’s decision is political and not based in constitutional law.
     “The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed the right of every state to define marriage, yet Judge Sedwick has joined the judicial stampede of other lower federal judges who have tried to override or ignore marriage laws based on no precedent other than their own political bias,” Herrod said.

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