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Supreme Court same-sex marriage ruling met with cheers, jeers in Arizona

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PHOENIX — Eight months after a federal judge struck down Arizona's laws banning same-sex marriage, the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday wiped out laws in the 14 states that still blocked gay marriage.

The decision earned cheers from supporters of same-sex marriage rights in Arizona.

But proponents of traditional marriage in the state slammed the five justices who voted to declare gay marriage bans unconstitutional, with the Center for Arizona Policy calling the decision "historically tragic.'

"The high court has disregarded the democratic process by stripping all Americans of their ability to debate and decide marriage policy," said the statement from the center's general counsel, Josh Kredit. "What's more, by throwing out the time-tested definition of marriage as only the union of one man and one woman, the Court has said that children don't deserve the best opportunity to be raised by their mom and dad."

The social-conservative group backed a 1996 state law and a 2008 state constitutional amendment that was approved by voters outlawing gay marriage. A federal judge blocked those Arizona laws from being enforced last October, and gays in the state have been allowed to wed ever since.

Democratic lawmakers hailed the decision, and they pledged to work to add laws protecting gays and lesbians from workplace and housing discrimination.

"Even with this ruling there is still much to be done to achieve true equality in Arizona where it is still legal to be fired because of your sexual preference," Sen. Katie Hobbs said in a statement. "We won't stop until every law that discriminates against LGBT Arizonans is struck from the books."

But Republicans who control the House and Senate said they weren't pleased with the decision.

"Today's 5-4 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court to redefine marriage is an affront to the millions of Americans who believe marriage is between a man and a woman," Senate President Andy Biggs said in joint statement with two other top Senate Republicans. "The ruling strips away the voices of the majority who have supported traditional marriage."

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey took a middle ground.

"There are people of goodwill and good faith on both sides of this debate, and my hope is that all Arizonans will engage constructively as we comply with the requirements of the law based on this ruling," he said.

The split was also evident along religious grounds. The Rt. Rev. Kirk S. Smith, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona, said he was delighted, while Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix said he was disappointed.

"Marriage is an institution that predates all governments and has served civilization well through the years. God Himself is its author," Olmsted wrote. "There can be many forms of love, but marital love is unique and can only exist between a man and a woman. It is through this love that children are best served, as well as society as a whole."

With the decision, all state laws that differentiate between traditional and gay marriages are likely unconstitutional, said Alessandra Soler, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona. That includes provisions in state adoption law that gives preference to traditional married couples.

"They could give precedence to married couples, but they cannot treat same-sex couples differently," Soler said.

Also in doubt was a policy by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery in which he declines to provide legal help to gay couples involved in non-contested adoptions. But the office now outsources those state-mandated services, and the outside lawyers are helping all applicants, Montgomery spokesman Jerry Cobb said Friday.

Ducey agreed that state laws will likely need to be changed.

"Sometimes the court will rule in a narrow perspective, other times they'll rule in a broad perspective," he said. "This appears to be a broad perspective, so we do believe there's much that needs to be reviewed."

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