Last edited: November 15, 2003

Opponents Seek to Put Sex-Laws Repeal to Voters

Need 80,000 Signatures in 90 Days

Arizona Republic, May 9, 2001
Box 1950, Phoenix, AZ 85001
Fax: 602-271-8933

By Beth DeFalco, The Arizona Republic

Conservative opponents of repealing state sex laws are threatening to put the issue before voters.

Sen. David Peterson, R-Mesa, said Tuesday that if opponents of the new law can gather 80,000 signatures in 90 days, they could stall the repeal of the state’s ban on sodomy, oral sex and cohabitation until a referendum could be held.

Peterson estimated the cost of such a campaign at about $150,000.

"The question is if there is enough fire in the belly," he said. "This sends us down the track that says there’s no difference between marriage or cohabitation. Schools will want to talk more about the gay lifestyle. The track can lead to San Francisco where health benefits pay for sex changes."

Gov. Jane Hull signed the bill into law Tuesday afternoon, surprising the thousands who’d called her office urging a veto.

"Keeping archaic laws on the books does not promote high moral standards; instead it teaches the lesson that laws are made to be broken," she wrote in a letter explaining her move.

"Moral standards are set by families and those they turn to for guidance, such as religious and community leaders."

Opponents had been rallied by the Center for Arizona Policy, a faith-based group that had not heard of Peterson’s referendum idea Tuesday night.

Among the thousands who e-mailed Hull urging a veto was Mesa resident Melissa Sullivan.

"I still believe that a traditional family is made with a husband and wife, and I don’t want to open the door for all people to just start living together," Sullivan said Tuesday. "But making criminals out of all married people for having sex is ridiculous. That’s what sex is for, to bond couples."

Sullivan said she would have been in favor of rewriting the laws to better reflect more traditional family values.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Steve May, R-Paradise Valley, said any politician who tries to reinstate the laws would be "laughed out of office."

"Let them go to the ballot, and we’ll watch them waste all their money," May said.

Specifically, the law lifts prohibitions on:

An unmarried man and woman living together.

Sodomy, including oral sex.

Any sex act not intended for procreation.

The repeal’s impact on the state budget was estimated to be at least $435,400 because it would allow one partner of a heterosexual unmarried couple that lives together to claim the other as a dependent if the dependent’s income was low enough.

Violation of the law, first drafted in 1901, was a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Reach the reporter at or at (602) 444-8404. Republic reporter Chip Scutari contributed to this report.

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