Calif. gay-marriage referendum clouding soon-legal weddings
Associated Press file photo

PHOENIX — Facing a splintered gay-rights community, supporters of legalizing same-sex weddings in Arizona have pulled the plug on putting the issue to voters next year.

"We got a substantial amount of pushback for a variety of reasons from the various LGBT groups," said Warren Meyer, chairman of the campaign.

Most significant, he said, is the belief that 2014 is too soon to push the issue in Arizona. Many believe that the issue would fare better in a presidential election year, Meyer said.

The other side of that coin, he said, is that the national gay-rights organizations who might be expected to provide substantial support would prefer to focus their efforts next year on other states where there is more pronounced support for allowing same-sex nuptials.

"They don't want a failure in 2014 to hurt momentum," he said.

The decision cheered Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, one of the groups that successfully pushed through Arizona's 2008 constitutional amendment defining marriage in this state as strictly between one man and one woman.

"Redefining marriage is a nonstarter today in Arizona, regardless of the out-of-state money and numerous political operatives that poured into our state for this failed effort,'' she said in a prepared statement. And Herrod said she believes the bid to overturn the 2008 amendment will fare no better in 2016.

Meyer, however, said the additional time will provide the chance to raise more money for what is likely to be an expensive campaign.

But Meyer cautioned that the delay itself has a cost.

He pointed out that a new law, set to take effect Friday, imposes new burdens on those seeking to put issues on the ballot.

Among those is a requirement for "strict compliance" with initiative laws, meaning the slightest error could invalidate the whole effort. Current law requires only "substantial compliance," meaning that courts will err on the side of giving voters their say.

Warren said that higher burden is likely to mean supporters will need to gather an extra 100,000 signatures to protect against that new law being used to invalidate names on petitions.

Under current law, backers would have needed 259,213 signatures to qualify for the 2014 ballot. And that amount, which is linked to the number of people who vote in gubernatorial election years, likely will increase after the 2014 vote.

Senior Editor, News, Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, Az.