Bisbee civil union: Town agrees to re-write ordinance

Officials in Bisbee have agreed to re-write the ordinance allowing same-sex unions.

The biggest complaint from the Arizona Attorney General's office is the ordinance is misleading. During a news conference Monday, Attorney General, Tom Horne said the initial wording provided legal benefits of civil unions for same-sex couples. 

Those benefits include community property and inheritance, for example. But, the town of Bisbee isn't legally allowed to do that. City law cannot supersede state law. However, there is a way around the ban for same-sex couples. Horne says any unmarried couple can get those benefits but only if they take action to get a will or a legal contract.

"Our fear was people would refrain from doing that thinking they were covered with civil unions and, therefore, if one of them died, the other would inherit. But, in fact, what would happen is it would go to state court, the state court would apply state law and the person would not inherit," Horne said.

But, the Bisbee ordinance is not a moot point. The re-written version will still include certain protections for same-sex couples in that town.

"A designation of one person or the other person to stand for the other in medical emergencies. The city has some power to prohibit discrimination in public accommodations, for example," says Jennifer Pizer with Lamda Legal, the oldest and largest national legal organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Meantime, a handful of other cities in our state are eyeing the Bisbee ordinance, contemplating changes of their own.

Tempe is one of them. ABC15 talked to city officials, but they told us today, at this time, they're only just considering enacting similar legislation.

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