Lambda Legal Asks Court to Compel Arizona to Recognize Marriage of Gay Couple Battling Serious Illness

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August 15, 2014
Fred McQuire and George Martinez

Today, Lambda Legal asked a federal court to compel the state of Arizona immediately to recognize the marriage of George Martinez and Fred McQuire, a gay couple from Green Valley who have been together for 45 years and were married last month in California after George was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer that has metastasized to his liver and was told that he only has months to live.

Jennifer C. Pizer, Senior Counsel and Director, Law & Policy Project, Lambda Legal, said:

These two lovely men, both of them in poor health which makes travel difficult, were forced to make an arduous journey to California to get married because of Arizona’s discriminatory marriage ban. But they endured because they know their time together is short, only to return home where their marriage is not recognized. Fred and George, as they near the end of their 45-year journey together, deserve the freedom to focus on each other secure in the knowledge that their love and commitment is recognized and respected.

Love Unites US: Arizona

Lambda Legal filed two motions today with the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona in Majors v. Jeanesthe lawsuit it filed in March challenging Arizona’s discriminatory marriage ban. In addition to the Motion for Preliminary Injunction to compel the state to recognize immediately the marriage of Mr. Martinez and Mr. McQuire, Lambda Legal also filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asking the court to determine that Arizona’s marriage ban is unconstitutional as it violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

George, 62, and Fred, 69, of Green Valley, are both veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who met in 1969. George served in the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam, and Fred served in both the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army and was stationed in Guam. In recent years, both have battled life-threatening illnesses which have required multiple hospitalizations. Fred suffers from pulmonary disease and Parkinson’s, and George was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago that resulted from his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. While the prostate cancer is in remission, this past June George was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.

George said:

It’s been a devastating blow. We knew we wanted to get married, and had hoped to be able to do it here, in Arizona, where we live. But now we can’t wait. Even though we are very sick and disabled, we decided we had no choice but to make the difficult and exhausting trip to California. We felt like we had to struggle to survive the journey, but we did because we wanted to get married and it was our only option. All we’re asking is that Arizona respect that marriage, respect the life we’ve built together for almost half a century, and allow us to spend these last months together in peace and love.

Arizona’s marriage ban also prevents George from accessing the increased veterans’ disability compensation through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to which disabled veterans with spouses usually are entitled. Furthermore, when George dies, the State will refuse to issue a death certificate to Fred as George’s surviving husband, which will interfere with Fred’s ability to take care of George’s affairs after his death and to access survivor’s benefits generally available to a surviving spouse.

Meet the Families Fighting for Marriage in Arizona

In addition to Fred and George, the other plaintiffs in the case include the lead plaintiffs, Nelda Majors, 75, and Karen Bailey, 74, of Scottsdale, who have been together for more than 55 years, and together have raised two children, Karen’s great grand-nieces Marissa and Sharla, as their own since the girls came into their home at ages 4 and 11 respectively. The girls are now 15 and 21.

The other plaintiffs include three couples and one surviving spouse from Phoenix, two couples and one surviving spouse from Tucson, and one couple from Tempe.

Read the press release.