Nov 212012
Arizona next for marriage equality

Buoyed by four victories nationwide, a Scottsdale man has taken the first steps to asking Arizonans to overturn their ban on gay marriage.

Tanner Pritts has formed Arizona Advocates for Marriage Equality. But he also has filed the necessary paperwork with the Secretary of State’s Office to allow him to start raising money for a 2014 campaign.

Pritts conceded to Capitol Media Services he is a political novice at ballot measures. In fact, the Scottsdale resident said he is just 22.

The initiative drive, if successful, would put the issue back on the ballot just six years after Arizonans voted by a 56-44 margin to define marriage in the state constitution as solely between one man and one woman.

But Pritts said he is heartened by the results of elections elsewhere.

“Obviously, we believe the demographics of the nation are changing,’ he said.

“We feel that Arizona is, too,’ Pritts continued. “And we think we have a shot.’

Earlier this month, voters in Maryland, Maine and Washington approved measures that specifically provide for same-sex marriage, the kind of measure Pritts said he wants in Arizona. And in Minnesota, voters turned down a bid to enact the kind of ban that exists here.

Whether any of that means anything in Arizona, however, is another question.

No one from any of the organizations involved in Arizona’s 2008 ballot measure would comment Monday on Pritt’s formation of the campaign committee. But campaign consultant Frank Schubert, who ran the “traditional marriage’ campaigns in all four states, told the Los Angeles Times after this year’s election that, despite the results in those four states, there is no national trend.

Anyway, he noted, all four are considered Democratic states.

“The American people continue to view marriage as a union between one man and one woman,’ he said, saying a nationwide vote would have had different results than what occurred in those four states.

That’s also the contention of the National Organization for Marriage.

On the heels of the election two weeks ago, it put out a survey of 800 people nationwide who actually went to the polls. That survey, the organization said, found 51 percent strongly agree that marriage should be limited to one man and one woman, with another 10 percent saying they somewhat agree.

Pritts conceded that Arizona is not Maine or Washington. And he said the results of the 2008 ballot measure are “just scary.’

But he said that does not make the task impossible.

“We believe we can change how people feel in Arizona,’ Pritts said.

At this point, Pritts said he is just reaching out to other gay rights organizations in Arizona in hopes of raising some money to put the issue on the 2014 ballot.

He would need more than a quarter million valid signatures by July of that year just to qualify. And no measure has made the ballot in years without the use of paid circulators.

There is some evidence that Arizonans may have divided feelings on the issue of gay rights.

In 2006, a measure to ban not only gay marriage but also civil unions, went down to a narrow defeat, about 54,000 votes out of nearly 1.5 million votes cast. That setback — the only one in the nation until this year — forced backers to recraft the measure to deal solely with marriage.

Pritts said he is a registered Republican and voted in 2008 for John McCain and just this year for Mitt Romney, both of whom are on record as opposing same-sex marriage. Pritts said, though, he is hoping to convince the GOP to alter its stance on the issue.

Howard Fischer