Arizona House Nixes Sodomy Repeal
April 29, 1998
Arizona's House Speaker goes behind his openly gay colleague's back to engineer the
defeat of sex law reform, but there May be more than one way to slither through the
Despite having a majority of votes in support of repealing Arizona's archaic laws
dealing with sodomy and cohabitation, conservative members of the House led by the Speaker
have killed the proposal through parliamentary maneuvering. On April 22, the state House
Committee of the Whole had approved by voice vote SB 1396, which would repeal the sex laws
and also expand the protections under the state's domestic violence laws to include
same-gender couples who live together. The series of votes that led to passage was seen as
a joint victory for amendment authors openly gay state Representatives Ken Cheuvront
(D-Phoenix) and Steve May (R-Phoenix), who called it "a great day for freedom in
That freedom lasted less than a week.
On Wednesday, April 28, House Speaker Jeff Groscost (R-Mesa) put SB 1396 on the House
Third Reading calendar. According to sources, Groscost had the bill considered after
finding out that May would be absent for the day. A vote was taken and the bill failed by
a vote of 30 in favor, 26 against and four not voting, with 31 votes needed for passage.
Later that day, conservative opponent of the amendments, state Representative Linda
Gray (R-Glendale, who also had tried to ban gay and lesbian school clubs during this
session), made a motion for reconsideration. The motion failed by voice vote, killing SB
1396 for the session (since the rules do not permit more than one such motion). According
to sources, this reconsideration was done when very few members were actually on the House
floor and after a questionable call to vote by the Speaker.
Amelia Craig Cramer, co-chair of the Arizona Human Rights Fund (AHRF), the state's
largest gay and lesbian rights organization, said she was "disappointed that despite
a majority of legislators seeing the wisdom of repealing Arizona's archaic sex laws, a few
derailed the process." According to Ron Passarelli of AHRF, an E-mail campaign is
being launched to resurrect the proposals through another bill -- as May says he plans to
attach the three amendments to other bills pending that are germane during the rest of
this legislative session.
Meanwhile, May has been active in opposing another pending measure under somewhat
ironic circumstances. In 1996, the Arizona Legislature approved a state version of the
Defense of Marriage Act, forbidding the state from recognizing same-sex marriages. As many
legislators put it at the time, their opposition was because they didn't want to give gays
and lesbians, "special rights." Now in 1999, the state Legislature is
considering bill SB 1314, which would give gays and lesbians "special rights"
over married couples when it comes to campaign contributions.
SB 1314 deals with campaign finance. An amendment to this bill would prohibit the
"married spouses" of candidates from contributing to the respective campaign.
Under Arizona law, "marriage" is defined, as "between a man and a
woman." So if SB 1314 passes, the life-partner of a gay or lesbian candidate would be
still able to make a contribution. May and AHRF have come out in opposition to the
proposal, citing that gays and lesbians should have "equal rights," not
"special rights." The measure currently awaits a third reading by the state
House, having been pulled from the April 28 calendar.
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