Bisbee City Attorney
The City of Bisbee
118 Arizona St.
Bisbee, AZ 85603

R.E.: Bisbee does not have authority under Arizona law to authorize civil unions

Dear Bisbee City Attorney:

I write as a representative of Center for Arizona Policy[1] to express my legal opinion concerning the Bisbee City Council’s announced intention to issue civil union certificates. In sum, Bisbee does not have the authority to do this under Arizona law. Rather, this action will be illegal under Arizona law and will result in unnecessary legal expenses for your city.

The City of Bisbee is considering enacting a law that will create marriage-like relationships, and also provide the partners in those relationships the same benefits and responsibilities that are extended to marital partners under Arizona law. The City of Bisbee lacks the authority to do this, and Arizona law forbids the City of Bisbee from taking this step.

The State of Arizona has given itself authority to determine what marriages, and marriage-like relationships, will be recognized in this state.[2] Under Arizona law, “marriage between persons of the same sex is void and prohibited.”[3] Further, the People of Arizona amended the state Constitution in 2008 to add Article XXX, Section 1, which states: “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.”[4]

Arizona law requires that the charters of charter cities “be consistent with and subject to the state constitution, and not in conflict with the constitution and laws relating to the exercise of the initiative and referendum and other general laws of the state not relating to cities.”[5] As explained above, both the Arizona Constitution and Arizona statutes recognize only the marriages of one man and one woman. The City of Bisbee’s attempt to do an end-run around those laws, by offering a marital-type relationship with the benefits and responsibilities of marriage, is in violation of this state requirement for charter cities.

If the City of Bisbee enacts a law recognizing a quasi-marital relationship not provided for by Arizona law, it will likely find itself involved in expensive and time-consuming litigation, which it is likely to lose.

Please feel free to contact me if I can be of assistance to you in understanding the City of Bisbee’s obligations and responsibilities under Arizona law.


Josh Kredit, Esq.
Legislative Counsel

[1] Center for Arizona Policy represents the interests of families throughout Arizona and seeks to promote and defend the foundational values of life, marriage and family, and religious liberty.

[2] See 25 Ariz. Rev. Stat., Ch. 1, “Marital and Domestic Relations.”

[3] Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 25-101.

[4] Ariz. Const. art. XXX, § 1.

[5] Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 9-284.

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