Thomas Roberts   |  January 10, 2014

Gay marriage suits could turn red states purple

As same-sex marriages in Utah were put on hold, four Arizona couples began the courtroom battle of overturning another red state's ban on such unions. Clifford Rosky, chairman of Equality Utah, and Shawn Aiken, attorney representing the plaintiffs in Arizona discuss.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> so can the deep red states turn purple? it really is an interesting question, because in utah , more than 1,300 gay couples got legally married before the supreme court put those marriages in the state on hold. the aclu is now suing and sent a letter to attorney general eric holder asking the federal government to recognize the validity of these marriages for the purpose of government marriages. joining me now from salt lake city is clifford roscki. he teaches constitutional and family law at the university of utah and is chairman of the group equality utah . then in phoenix, we have attorney shaun aiken . shaun represents four same-sex couples in arizona who's suing the state over the issue of marriage equality . just some 300-plus miles away , so it's great to have you both on. let me start first, the federal government being asked to grant these couples in utah that have been married spousal benefits. does the fed have that authority?

>> i think they certainly do. there's no question these 1,000 couples are legally married . they got married pursuant to a federal court order, ministers were authorized by utah law. they were married then and they are married now. really, the federal government would have no basis not to recognize those marriages.

>> i want to play for everybody what utah 's attorney general had to say when the supreme court suspended those rights.

>> this is precisely the uncertainty we were hoping to avoid by requesting a stay immediately upon the decision of the district court . it's unfortunate that many utah citizens have been put into this legal limbo.

>> does he have a point there, that they have been put in this limbo and almost by purpose?

>> well, they've certainly been put into the limbo, but it wasn't the judge who did that. the attorney general did not ask for a stay until after the court had issued its order and after same-sex couples had already begun to marry. and at that point, you know, the cat's out of the bag, i mean, sort of you can't put that back. and so the judge said, well, if same-sex couples are already marrying, what's the harm in allowing that to continue while you appeal this case? now the governor is the one who's refusing to recognize these marriages after agreeing to recognize them for about three weeks.

>> as we go just 300-plus miles away , mr. aiken , let me talk to you about what you're doing, you're representing these four same-sex couples in arizona , suing over the fact that state has had a longstanding, i believe, it's a 17-year ban on marriage equality . so how do you feel that's going to move forward?

>> we filed a class action lawsuit on monday to do exactly what you've described, and that is to overturn that ban on same-sex marriage. we'll move forward in the federal district court in the same way the utah case moved forward.

>> jan brewer , the governor there, has been against marriage equality . certainly not a fan of it, however, and we know arizona has a reputation of being a conservative red state , a poll conducted in arizona back in may found a 55% majority favor marriage equality . only 35% oppose it. so how does that public will help the couples , the four couples that you are representing, i guess, have the courage to move forward and the strength needed to see this play out in the courts?

>> they are four courageous couples , you're right. they decided that waiting for the legislature to take action or waiting for a change at the ballot box perhaps in 2016 may or may not happen, and so decided to file the lawsuit, but the support has been warm, wide, and enthusiastic.

>> well, we certainly wish you the best and we'll follow your stories. clifford roski and shaun aiken . thank you so much. and we'll be back with much more. stick around.