Arizonans Launch Campaign To Put Marriage Equality On the 2014 Ballot

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Arizona Equal Marriage, a group of Copper State activists, filed an initiative Monday with the Secretary of State to replace the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage with language that would create civil marriage equality. While the effort to collect 259,213 signatures — and then get the majority of Arizona’s to vote for the measure in November 2014 — will be a challenge, activists in other states will find it even more difficult to repeal marriage inequality constitutional amendments.

In 2006, voters made Arizona the first state to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages and unions. Two years later, the state passed a constitutional amendment banning only same-sex marriage, with 56 percent of the vote in support.

But recent polling finds that Arizonans have evolved on the issue of marriage equality: 55 percent support marriage equality for same-sex couples, while just 35 percent oppose it.

Supporters of marriage equality in other states that previously enacted marriage amendments are also mounting repeal efforts. In Nevada, the Democratic-controlled state legislature endorsed a repeal referendum last month, but will have to do so again in 2015 in order to get it on the November 2016 ballot. Polling shows 54 percent of Nevadans already support repealing the measure. Ohio’s Freedom to Marry has until July to collect 385,247 signatures to put marriage equality on the November 2013 ballot — polls there show 54 percent support for the pro-equality amendment. Basic Rights Oregon is working to put a repeal amendment on the November 2014 ballot — a recent poll found 49 percent of Oregonians back the change, 42 percent oppose.

But in other places — even as a majority of voters now oppose the amendments their states passed several years ago — the process will be much harder. In Virginia, where a May poll showed 56 percent support for marriage equality, any repeal would have to clear the GOP-controlled legislature in two different terms — and then would go to the voters. While 23 Democrats in the House of Delegates backed a repeal proposal this session, it was killed in subcommittee on a voice vote. In Florida, where a growing number of voters support civil marriage, repeal would require a 60 percent super-majority of voters.

With 30 states with marriage inequality currently enshrined in their constitutions, and similar hurdles in other states, the state-by-state process will not be quick or easy.