VIDEO: Federal judge rules that Arizona must respect marriage of same-sex couple
September 12, 2014
Today, September 12, following the tragic death of George Martinez, a plaintiff in Lambda Legal's Majors v. Horne, challenging a law in Arizona that denies the freedom to marry to same-sex couples, U.S. District Court judge John Sedwick granted a Temporary Restraining Order, requiring that Arizona respect the legal marriage of Fred McQuire and his late husband George Martinez.
The ruling means that Fred & George’s marriage is now legally recognized in Arizona, which has a tangible impact for Fred: Now, Fred will not be denied survivor benefits that all other married couples receive in the most challenging of times, and Fred will not be denied the chance to be listed as George's legal husband on the death certificate.
Fred and George were together for 45 years before George passed away. He died shortly after being diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer, and subsequently, Arizona state officials refused to list McQuire, the surviving partner, on the death certificate, citing the state's marriage ban. McQuire, who is also battling a life-threatening illness, is barred from receiving Social Security survivor’s benefits or veterans benefits, and is also at risk of losing his home, as a result of not being listed on Martinez’s death certificate.
It’s tragic that George did not live to see the day when his partnership of more than 45 years would be respected in the state that he and Fred called home for so long. But at least now, Fred can take a bit of solace in this difficult time, knowing that he will be afforded the protections and respect that only marriage can provide.
Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson commented on the ruling today. He said:
Couples in America should not have to play 'now you're married, now you're not' depending on which state they are in when a tragedy strikes, and states should not pick and choose which marriages they will respect and which they won’t as if we did not have one Constitution protecting all of us. It is good that the court has told Arizona it may not withhold an accurate death certificate from the surviving spouse in this compelling case, but Americans should not have to fight case by case, state by state, year by year for the freedom to marry and equal protection that the Constitution guarantees. It is time for the Supreme Court to take up one or more marriage cases and affirm the freedom to marry nationwide once and for all.
Fred & George’s story underscores the undeniable fact: When same-sex couples are denied the freedom to marry, real Americans are hurt. Americans in 31 states should not have to fight state by state, day by day, case by case to win the fundamental right of marriage.
Our sincerest condolences go out to Fred, who, along with George, bravely challenged Arizona’s marriage ban head-on. We stand with Why Marriage Matters Arizona and Lambda Legal in thanking this couple for their strength in this fight.
Today was an important victory for Fred and his family, and now, it’s time to win marriage once and for all for all Arizonans and for all Americans - in the coming weeks, Judge Sedwick is expected to issue a broader ruling on Arizona's marriage ban, and shortly after that, the United States Supreme Court will have its first chance to decide to hear a marriage case when seven different petitions come before them in their September 29 conference.
Before the ruling, Lambda Legal published this moving video capturing their life together: