Familiar Feeling

After making history in 2006, Arizona voters again have to decide on the definition of marriage

Kelly Frieders is a Christian, a registered Republican and a straight, married mother of 10-year-old triplets. On paper, Frieders should be a supporter of state Sen. Tim Bee's run for the U.S. House against Democratic incumbent Gabrielle Giffords.

Instead, Frieders is angry at Bee, because of his efforts to get Proposition 102 on the ballot, a legislature-produced measure sponsored by Bee to constitutionally define marriage in Arizona as legally being between one man and one woman.

Frieders says she doesn't agree with supporters of Prop 102, who want to make the proposed amendment a religious issue.

"I'm really disappointed. I'm really upset with the direction the Republican Party has gone. I'm a Republican because I believe in less government and being financially conservative. Seems to me Prop 102 is about more government, not less," Frieders says.

Frieders and others against Prop 102 are also upset that Bee and his fellow legislators ignored the fact that in 2006, Arizona voters narrowly defeated another anti-gay-marriage initiative, Proposition 107.

However, 2006's Prop 107 differs from today's Prop 102 in a big way: Prop 107 asked voters to not only define marriage between a man and a woman, but to bar government recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships. Prop 102 only constitutionally defines marriage--and is therefore expected by many political observers to pass on Nov. 4.

When Prop 107 was defeated, however, it was a moment of pride for those who fought the measure, like Frieders. Out of seven states that had anti-gay-marriage ballot measures that year, Arizona was the only state where a measure failed.

"In 2006, the big mantra was, 'Let the people decide,'" Frieders says. "Well, the people did decide. They seem to forget that."

In Pima County, organizations such as Wingspan and Arizona Together have partnered under the "No on Prop 102" banner to try to convince voters the proposition isn't worth their vote. Becky Corran and Vicki Gaubeca, No on Prop 102 volunteers, say not only is the amendment hateful, but redundant: A1996 Arizona law already bans same-sex marriage. That law was ruled constitutional in 2003 by the state Court of Appeals and left untouched by the Arizona Supreme Court.

"What's amazing this time around is there are so many other issues that are more important, like the economy. This doesn't seem that important," Gaubeca says. "It's almost insulting that this small group of politicians decided to ignore the will of the voters. It feels offensive, and it undermines the intelligence of Arizona voters."

However, Corran, a No on Prop 102 co-chair, says people of faith like Frieders give her hope this latest initiative will be defeated, especially since those who support the initiative--including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Arizona Catholic bishops--are painting the initiative as a religious issue.

On Tuesday, Sept. 23, more than 30 church and synagogue leaders were slated to jointly express their opposition to Prop 102. Frieders spoke at a similar event two years ago, and jokes that she then shared her "coming-out story"--as a straight, married mother against Prop. 107.

"I said that why I believe in this fight is not in spite of those things, but because of those things: Marriage, family and faith are important to me. Bringing this up again focuses our government on all the wrong things, and that's why I got involved again."

Frieders says she was first inspired to get involved in gay civil rights issues after the 1998 death of Matthew Shepard, the Wyoming college student brutally murdered for being openly gay. Then, in 2000, a man was stabbed coming out of a Fourth Avenue café by a man yelling, "Jesus hates fags."

"It bothered me, especially when it came from the name of my god. That's not what Christ is about to me. That's not what Jesus really believed," Frieders says.

Scheduled to joining Frieders at Tuesday's faith rally were the Rev. Kate Bradsen and her partner, Carol, who met in Episcopalian seminary in Cambridge, Mass. The Bradsens, who moved to Arizona after graduating in 2005, were also involved in the campaign to defeat Prop 107 in 2006.

"They've tried to make it seem like this came from all these people of faith. ... Christianity is about more than this," Kate Bradsen says. "I just don't think this is what the state Constitution is for. ... We defeated this in 2006. This time, we need to tell the politicians that no means no. I think Arizona is better than that. Arizona is more about people minding your own business."

Bee filed the amendment proposal on Feb. 11, getting the remaining Republican senators to join as sponsors. At first, it seemed certain the initiative would be on the fall ballot, as it had enough support in both the state House and Senate. But it stalled in the Senate for months as the state budget crisis grew. Word was that Bee didn't plan on moving the initiative forward at all.

But he did. On Friday, June 27, Senate President Bee was credited for reaching out to Democrats to get the budget passed, as one of only four Republican senators who voted in favor of what was considered the Democrats' state budget.

In the waning hours of the session, he also allowed the marriage amendment to move forward.

Before it passed, however, Democratic opponents staged a rousing filibuster to delay the vote. During the filibuster, Sen. Jack Harper, of Surprise, chairing the session, cut off Tucson Sen. Paula Aboud, who is gay, by turning off her microphone and ending the filibuster. Critics contend Harper broke Senate rules by doing so.

The Weekly called Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, the organization leading support for the initiative, through YESforMarriage.com. The Weekly was instructed to call a media information line for YESforMarriage.com, but as of press time, no one has returned the calls.

Corran and Gaubeca say raising money to defeat Prop 102 is a priority--but not much has been raised so far. According to the YESforMarriage.com campaign finance report, dozens of Prop 102 supporters have signed checks for $10,000, and a few others for $100,000, helping the campaign raise $608,000 as of late August.

The last report filed as of press time by No on Prop 102 shows the opposition group has raised not quite $8,000.