BY JACQUES BILLEAUD
PHOENIX - In a ruling that calls into question Arizona's gay marriage ban, a judge handed a victory Friday to a gay man who lost his spouse to cancer last month and was denied death benefits because the state prohibits same-sex unions.
U.S. District Judge John Sedwick allowed Fred McQuire to be listed on his spouse's death certificate, marking another development in the national debate over gay marriage as state and federal judges across the country have struck down bans in more than a dozen states at a rapid rate since a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year.
Friday's decision only applied to McQuire, but the judge signaled that Arizona's gay marriage ban may not hold up after he hears a broader challenge to the constitutionality of the law.
"The court has not yet decided whether there is a conflict between Arizona law and the Constitution, but the court has decided that it is probable that there is such a conflict that Arizona will be required to permit same-sex marriages," said Sedwick, who was nominated to the federal bench in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush.