PHOENIX — The question of whether Arizonans agree in 2016 to allow gays to wed could depend on how many old people die between now and then, according to a former Republican state attorney general.
Grant Woods said Tuesday the issue of marriage rights for gays is a “no-brainer” for young people — and even those in middle age.
“If you talk to people, really, even under the age of 50 right now, they really don't even understand why we're talking about this issue,” said Woods who was state attorney general for eight years in the 1990s.
“They don't even understand why we're talking about it.”
But Woods acknowledged that view is not shared by many senior citizens, especially those from his own party, and he questioned whether anything that supporters say would ever change that.
So Woods said the fate of a proposed 2016 initiative comes around to demographics. He said that already is occurring just five years after Arizonans voted by a 56-44 margin to constitutionally define marriage as solely between one man and one woman.
“It's just simple math,” he said.
“A lot of people at the upper end have died” since that vote, Woods explained. “A lot of people at the lower end have become voters.”
And he said that, in general, the younger the voter, the more likely he or she is to support the anticipated ballot measure.
Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, which pushed the 2008 constitutional ban on gay marriage, acknowledged there is some basis for looking at the issue from the perspective of age.
“This is a generation that's grown up with TV show after TV show, movie after movie promoting same-sex relationships being equivalent to marriage, that redefining marriage is a good thing,” she said. But Herrod said she believes their views will change as they age.
“How often do we see, someone gets older, they have children, their views change on a number of topics,” said Herrod, who is 57.
Backers of the plan to repeal the 2008 amendment are not relying entirely on a new generation of voters replacing an older one. There's also the parallel issue of more gays in the open.
“I think the message is, 15 or 20 years ago, if you had stopped most people on the streets, they would say, ‘I don't know anybody who's gay,’” said Rebecca Wininger, president of Equality Arizona.
“Over the past couple of decades, a lot of us have come out of the closet,” she continued. “And now people are realizing that their neighbors, some of their family members, their friends, their coworkers are part of the LGBTQ community.”
In a bid to put a face on that, backers of repealing the 2008 measure introduced Nelda Majors and Karen Bailey — Scottsdale residents who met and became a couple in college.
“We chose at that time a song by Roy Hamilton called, ‘The Right to Love’ as our song,” Bailey said.
“Fifty five and a half years later we may have the right to love,” she said. “"But we still don't have the rights of legal marriage in the state of Arizona.”
Proponents and opponents do have one thing in common
The theme for their campaigns both center on the theme of “Why Marriage Matters,” though Wininger and Herrod see the issue from different perspectives.
“This is a healthy conversation for the public to have,” Herrod said.
Alessandra Soler, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, which backs repeal, said her group has about $150,000 to start its education campaign. She said there is no timetable about when a decision will occur whether to take the question to the 2016 ballot.