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Arizona: Probably Not the Next Iowa

With major gay rights victories in Iowa and Vermont in recent days, the movement seem to be on the upswing in much of the country. Arizona, however, is another story. While Democrats may be eyeing The Grand Canyon state as a historically red state that could turn blue in 2012, it may not be moving in quite as progressive a direction as some are hoping.

In November, Arizona voters passed [Proposition 102](http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Arizona_Proposition_102_(2008)), which amended the state constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman — preemptively quashing virtually any possibility of a legislative or litigative push to legalize gay marriage in the state, short of a repeal.

As if that weren’t bad enough for gay activists, The Arizona Republic reports that in Casa Grande, a small city about 50 miles southeast of Phoenix, a police officer shut down a gay rights rally Wednesday.

A gay rights demonstration was cut short Wednesday in Casa Grande when a police officer threatened participants with arrest for flying a pride flag inside city limits, organizers said.

The Casa Grande Police Department is investigating the incident.

Police say the officer was called to the area Wednesday evening on a report that the group’s flag, which measured 8 feet by 5 feet, was obstructing the view of traffic at a nearby intersection. [...]

[Protest organizer Christopher] Hall said they stood at least seven feet from the sidewalk, as instructed by a city official when Hall checked to make sure the event would be in compliance with local ordinances.

Still, someone called 911 at 6:02 p.m., less than half an hour after the demonstration began.

Police on Thursday said they knew little about what transpired when Officer Brian Walsh, a four-year veteran, responded to the scene. Walsh’s notes following the incident indicated the group was “made to leave. Warned to not obstruct the view of traffic by flying their flag.”

Hall said he and the flag’s owner complied by giving the officer their identification and asked where they might move their demonstration. That’s when they were told they couldn’t fly the flag “anywhere” or risk arrest, Hall said.

While the details are fuzzy, and one incident does not by itself constitute a trend, the episode could be emblematic of the uphill battle gay rights supporters face in the state. I spoke with Republic reporter Lindsey Collom, and she said the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona is getting involved on behalf of Central Arizona Rainbow Equality, the group behind the rally, and would meet with the Casa Grande Police Department in coming days.

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