U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick decided not to delay until a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issues an opinion on state same-sex marriage bans. Judge Sedwick today ordered the state of Arizona to issue a death certificate for George Martinez that lists Fred McQuire as his legal spouse. The Arizona Capitol Times reports, Federal court rules Arizona must recognize widower’s gay marriage:
Judge John Sedwick rejected arguments by attorneys for state that the “public interest” would be harmed by requiring Arizona to recognize the pair were legally married in July in California. Martinez died a month later.
Sedwick was careful to spell out that today’s ruling is limited solely to McQuire and does not mean that other Arizona couples who were legally married elsewhere are entitled to have their unions recognized here. That fight remains for another day.
But that other day could come soon for Arizona: Sedwick is currently considering lawsuit seeking to overturn the state law and the 2008 voter-approved constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between one man and one woman. And the judge, to be able to grant McQuire’s request, had to conclude that those challenging the ban ultimately likely to succeed.
Today’s ruling may not help McQuire with one thing he was hoping to get: the veteran and Social Security benefits from Martinez that normally would go to a spouse, money he said he needs to keep the couple’s Green Valley home.
Attorney Jennifer Pizer said that is because federal law requires marriages to be of a certain length to prevent “sham” weddings solely for benefits. But Pizer said that, armed with today’s ruling, she intends to challenge that limit as it applies to gay couples whose home state has thrown roadblocks in their path.
In this case, she said, McQuire and Martinez were together and lived as spouses for 45 years, with only the Arizona law preventing them from being called married.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument on Monday in three same-sex marriage appeals, and is expected to issue an opinion fairly quickly.
UPDATE: Read Judge Sedwick’s order Here (.pdf).