Will Court Case Help Marriage Lawsuit for Ariz. Gay Couple?
Republic, July 16, 2003
Box 1950, Phoenix, AZ 85001
By Carol Sowers, The Arizona Republic
Backers of same-sex marriage are reluctant to say that a
recent Supreme Court ruling strengthens a lawsuit filed this week by two gay
Arizonans who want to marry each other.
Harold Donald Standhardt, 34, and Tod Alan Keltner, 36,
on Monday asked the Arizona Court of Appeals to overturn the state’s
prohibition on same-sex marriages. They base their suit on a June 26 U.S.
Supreme Court ruling that struck down a Texas law that made gay sex illegal.
Kathie Gummere, spokeswoman for Arizona Human Rights
Fund, an advocacy group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender state
residents, said the high court ruling “gave us more than we expected.”
But she was wary of predicting whether it will give
momentum to the suit filed this week or similar suits already filed in
Massachusetts, Maine, Hawaii and New Jersey.
“If the ruling had been different, we might have had
less hope,” she said.
However, Kathleen McCarthy, a Tucson lawyer and a
certified family-law specialist who speaks frequently on same-sex marriage and
other domestic law issues, said she believes the decision will give a boost to
“It will ease the ability to challenge these
lawsuits,” she said.
Although the high court didn’t step into the
politically unpopular arena of ordering states to approve same-sex marriages,
Justice Antonin Scalia said the ruling would put such laws on “pretty shaky
Rudy Gerber, a Phoenix lawyer and former Arizona Appeals
Court judge, said the U.S. Supreme Court based its Texas decision on privacy
“Those rights aren’t in the Constitution, but the
Supreme Court read them in,” he said. “Now the difficult constitutional
question is how broadly they want to interpret those rights in sexual
The high court may be confronted with that question if
gay couples lose their challenges to laws banning same-sex marriages and
appeal to higher courts.
Lori Rocheleau, 40, says states would benefit from
allowing same-sex couples to marry because it would force both members of the
partnership to be responsible for children that they share.
Lori, said her partner, Renee Rocheleau, 35, underwent
artificial insemination to give birth to their twin girls two years ago. Renee
stays home to care for the twins, while Lori supports the family with her job
as a Honeywell contract manager. Honeywell provides health insurance for
The two women aren’t married, but Lori took her
partner’s name because they believe their 10-year-old union is as valid as
any other marriage.
When gay couples split up, they have limited access to
family court, where matters of child support, spousal maintenance, child
custody and other issues are settled.
“I was part of the decision to have the twins,” Lori
said. “I should be held responsible for them.”
But because Arizona, like every other state, bans
same-sex marriages, their 2-year-old twin daughters don’t have the same
legal rights and financial benefits of married parents, Lori says.
[Home] [News] [Arizona]