Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Call for Bipartisan Investigation into Arizona Senate Actions

PHOENIX (Observer Update) - Equality Arizona called on Senate President Tim Bee (R-30) today to immediately form a bipartisan commission to investigate alleged illegal actions that took place on the Senate floor on the last day of this year’s legislative session. In a letter delivered to Senator Bee’s office today, Equality Arizona Executive Director Barbara McCullough-Jones contends that Senators Jack Harper (R-4) and Thayer Verschoor (R-22) deliberately broke Senate rules to deny openly-gay Senators Paula Aboud (D-28) and Ken Cheuvront (D-15) their rights, and that Senator John Huppenthal (R-20) may have been involved in developing the scheme.

“The people of Arizona deserve a complete and accurate account of what happened,” said McCullough-Jones. “These Senators must be held accountable for breaking the rules and disregarding our democratic process. A bipartisan investigation will help to ensure impartiality and transparency so that the people can be fully informed.”

In the five-page letter, McCullough-Jones cites audio, video and written transcripts of the hearing, which she says reveals that Harper, who was acting as the presiding officer at the time, wrongfully shut off the microphones of Aboud and Cheuvront in the middle of a debate. According to McCullough-Jones, Harper acknowledged his role in interrupting the debate and chose not to correct the situation. “Rather, he deliberately ignored their calls for corrective action and recognized Senator Verschoor, who was already poised and at his microphone to effectively kill the debate with his improper motions,” wrote McCullough-Jones.

The actions in question took place during a debate on House Bill 2723 when the Senate was acting as the Committee of the Whole. The maneuver paved the way for a vote on Senate Concurrent Resolution 1042, a referendum that forces Arizona voters to once again vote on another proposed amendment to constitutionally define marriage. Arizona voters rejected a similar measure in 2006. State statute already limits marriage to opposite-sex couples, which has already been upheld as constitutional by Arizona courts.

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