U.S. District Judge John W. Sedwick agreed that he should be listed, ordering the Arizona Department of Health Services to “prepare, issue, and accept a death certificate” that lists McQuire as Martinez’s spouse. His ruling is very limited, focusing only on this one couple, but it also touches on the larger issues involving same-sex marriage, noting that arguments suggesting Arizona’s ban does not discriminate “lacks merit.” (You can read the complete ruling here.)
The Supreme Court ruled last year that the federal government had to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where it is legal. But it did not expand beyond that and say whether couples in all states should be able to get married, and activists and attorneys have been pushing to get the court to consider this larger question.
In the order, Sedwick wrote that McQuire would suffer “loss of dignity and status coming in the midst of an elderly man’s personal grief.” He agreed that McQuire would suffer emotional harm and a violation of his rights if his marriage was not recognized after Martinez’s death.
Still, Sedwick did not agree that McQuire would have access to Martinez’s benefits, writing that McQuire would not qualify for these benefits even if he was on the death certificate because of how long they were married.
McQuire spoke during the hearing about why he was fighting for this recognition.
“I need to let people know I was married,” he said, according to the Arizona Republic. “George was my life partner for over 40 years. We loved each other and he would love to have my name on his death certificate.”
But he said he expected to lose the home he and Martinez had shared, because his pension would not be enough to allow him to stay.
This came not long after the state drew heavy criticism for a bill that would have let businesses refuse service to gay people. Gov. Jan Brewer (R) ultimately vetoed the bill, which had been criticized by a host of big businesses (including the host committee of next year’s Super Bowl, set to take place in Arizona).