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Arizona sues city over civil unions

PHOENIX — Attorney General Tom Horne will go to court to block the artists’ community of Bisbee from implementing a newly approved ordinance recognizing civil unions for same-sex couples, his office said Wednesday.

Horne’s office will file its planned lawsuit within a week, well before the ordinance approved Tuesday night by the Bisbee City Council takes effect in 30 days, Horne spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said.

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The council approved the ordinance on a 5-2 vote during an overflow meeting after three hours of emotional testimony by residents of the former mining town.

Horne had written Bisbee officials Tuesday, expressing concern about the ordinance. Horne said he was not taking a policy stance against civil unions by planning to sue. Rather, he said, the council acted outside its legal authority because state laws control things such as ownership of a couple’s community property, inheritances, appointment of guardians, and disposition of remains after death.

The ordinance cites those state laws and others while saying a person in a Bisbee-recognized civil union would have the same benefits as a married person.

However, Bisbee City Attorney John MacKinnon said Tuesday that the ordinance would affect only things that the city controls, such as its personnel practices and the city cemetery.

Bisbee was not changing state law and was acting within its authority, MacKinnon said.

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