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Gay Couples in Ariz. Can Marry Immediately: State Atty. General

Arizona gays and lesbians can get married now pursuant to a letter by Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne.

The letter, issued early Friday, instructs the Grand Canyon State's 15 county clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples immediately, following a recent decision by a federal district court that demanded Arizona stop enforcing its gay marriage ban. The Arizona Republic reports that Horne issued a statement Friday declaring that an appeal on the issue would be "an exercise in futility" and a waste of taxpayer money.

So what is the legal effect of A.G. Tom Horne's letter for gay marriage in Arizona?

Court Clerks Cannot Deny Same-Sex Couples

The attorney general in any state is appointed as the legal advisor to state and local government agencies within that state.

In Arizona, when the attorney general issues an opinion, it is not legally binding in the way that a state or federal court decision might be; rather, it is considered advisory. However, Attorney General Horne's letter does notify county clerks of the legal effects of the federal court's decision -- that gay marriage must be recognized immediately since the state has chosen not to appeal.

The letter in essence acts as the state's official OK to allow clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, beginning Friday.

Arizona Attorney General Letter: Gays Can Marry Immediately