The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule any day on two same-sex marriage cases that could affect Arizonans.
The constitutionality of a California law banning the state from allowing same-sex marriages, better known as Proposition 8, and a challenge to the federal Defense Of Marriage Act are expected to be decided this week at the nation's highest court.
The cases could change the definition of marriage or uphold the laws preventing recognition and benefits for same-sex couples who wish to be married.
The question for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Arizonans is how the upcoming rulings will affect them.
Jennifer Hoefle Olson, program director for LGBTQ Affairs at the University of Arizona, has been with her domestic partner, Kelli Olson, for eight years in Arizona.
“There are over a thousand federal benefits that come along with marriage,” Kelli Olson said.
The Supreme Court rulings may not affect the Olsons directly but will still be significant for the national LGBT community, the couple said.
“So much depends on how they write the decision,” Kelli Olson said.
If the court rules in favor of same-sex marriage in California, Kelli Olson said it would increase the U.S. population living in states that allow same-sex marriage to 30 percent. But, it wouldn’t mean anything legally for Arizona.
“We are recognized as domestic partners in the city of Tucson, because legally, that’s as much as we can do here at this time,” Jennifer Hoefle Olson said. “Although, I definitely refer to Kelli as my wife, and we consider ourselves married. But we’re not recognized legally.”
Yet the cases could have a big impact, Jennifer Hoefle Olson said.
“It puts it in a national dialogue, in a way that we need it to be, because we aspire to have our family recognized and to protect our children,” she said. “We’re already here, and we love each other.”
Kelli Olson said she is happy to see progress.
“Anything that can move Arizona along so that people want to stay here is good for the state,” she said.
For the Olsons, marriage means more than being recognized.
“Marriage has taken on a whole new meaning for us, just wanting to protect our family, like everyone does,” Kelli Olson said.
Jennifer Hoefle Olson said the UA has maintained a commitment to honor domestic partner benefits and will continue to recognize relationships.
“We’re fortunate to be in the context of an institution that really values the LGBT members of our community,” she said.
A committee called Equal Marriage Arizona has filed paperwork to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot to define marriage as a union between two people.
The campaign must collect more than 200,000 signatures by July 2014 to get on the November 2014 ballot.
Ashley Grove is a University of Arizona journalism student and an intern for Arizona Public Media.