Arizona officials say they will not ask state officials for permission to issue licenses to same-sex couples in a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on gay marriage.
Michele D’Auria of the Department of Licensing and Regulation announced the decision in a statement Friday, adding that she will seek a stay of a court order to prevent the state from issuing licenses to any married couples until a decision from a three-judge panel.
The ruling is the latest in a string of challenges to the state law that requires applicants to prove they are a married couple, but which also prevents the state government from denying licenses.
The suit was filed last month by a coalition of gay rights groups, which say Arizona’s decision to deny licenses to married couples is discriminatory and violates the constitutional right to marry.
The coalition includes the American Civil Liberties Union, Arizona Equality and other organizations.
The Arizona Supreme Court declined to hear the case, but it did rule in July that the state cannot discriminate against married couples based on sexual orientation.
D’Amuria’s ruling could affect how the state licenses couples, as it could have consequences for how couples get married.
“We cannot allow the government to force us to choose between a constitutional right and the fundamental right of a state to provide marriage licenses,” said Brian Brown, a partner at the law firm DLA Piper who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the gay rights group.
“This decision sets a dangerous precedent and could result in further discriminatory actions by the state.”
Brown said he expects to appeal the ruling, adding he is “optimistic” the state will eventually be able to issue the licenses.
He said his group will continue to fight for marriage equality in Arizona, even as he said his firm will continue working to get married couples the licenses they want.
The lawsuit was filed after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of Arizona’s constitutional ban on same-seeming marriages, which prevented same-day marriage.