Senate puts gay-marriage ban on ballot

2008-06-28T00:00:00Z Senate puts gay-marriage ban on ballotBy Daniel Scarpinato ARIZONA DAILY STAR Arizona Daily Star

PHOENIX — Arizonans will get another chance to vote on whether to ban gay marriage in the state constitution.

But the one-vote agreement to send the issue back to voters came after a long, confrontational floor debate that had been put on hold for months, before the state Senate finally took it up in the final hours of a 166-day legislative session.

Voters rejected a broader ban on both gay marriage and domestic-partner benefits in 2006. This measure deals only with marriage.

Friday's Senate debate was a combative, emotional three-hour discussion about the definition of marriage, with Dem-ocrats seeking to sidetrack the measure through procedural tactics and Republicans struggling to quash those attempts.

The measure, which passed the House in May, eventually garnered 16 votes — the minimum number needed to go on the ballot — all from Republicans. Four members voted against it, and 10 members, mainly Democrats, were absent or missing from the floor.

The referendum that will go to voters in November would define marriage in the Arizona Constitution as between one man and one woman.

Conflict over the ban started late in the afternoon, when two Democratic lawmakers, Sens. Ken Cheuvront of Phoenix and Paula Aboud of Tucson, dragged out discussion on a sales-tax measure — a move designed to kill support for the marriage bill.

Republicans abruptly cut off the discussion. But Democrats protested, saying the motion was out of order. When Republicans ignored those complaints, Cheuvront and Aboud kept shouting "Out of order."

What ensued was 20 minutes of chaotic arguments on the Senate floor with raised voices, finger-pointing and name-calling, as Senate attorneys tried to straighten the issue out.

The attorneys eventually said it was a "political issue" that Senate President Tim Bee, R-Tucson, needed to handle. Bee let the two sides fight it out before finally calling for a vote on the tax measure.

The Senate galley and floor filled with lobbyists and members of the House of Representatives who came to watch.

When Republican Sen. Jack Harper, who had been chairing the floor session, walked by Aboud, she told him: "Don't come near me, turkey."

Several minutes later, when Aboud had the microphone again, she complained that Majority Leader Thayer Verschoor had broken the rules and was a hypocrite.

"That majority leader is a Mormon — that is just so interesting to me," Aboud said. With that Aboud was accused of "defaming" Verschoor, and apologized.

Bee, who had been the original sponsor of the gay-marriage measure in January, delayed a vote all session, a move social conservatives criticized. Although he voted for the measure in the end, he lambasted the bill's crafters, a lobbying group called the Center for Arizona Policy. He called the process "divisive."

"I've been extremely disappoint in those who have been lobbying on behalf of this issue," Bee said. "They've confronted members in hostile ways and threatened and coerced them."

In an emotional speech of her own, Aboud said, "I just don't understand how my personal, private relationship between two people affects anyone else in this room?

"Get your love off my back," Aboud said. "Is your relationship with your family so fragile that you're threatened by me?"

Talking to reporters after the vote, Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, defended her techniques and the measure. "There was no coercion. There were no threats made," she said.

● Contact reporter Daniel Scarpinato at 307-4339 or dscarpinato@azstarnet.com.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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