Attorney General Tom Horne has issued a letter to the Bisbee City Council stating the former mining community-turned-artists' haven in rural southern Arizona can't legally recognize civil unions that would include same-sex couples.
Horne said the Civil Union Ordinance, if passed, would be unconstitutional and require his office to stop it.
"I have today sent a letter to the Bisbee City Attorney and City Council members stating that they have no authority to pass the ordinance that they will be considering tonight. This is in response to a complaint received from all three state legislators representing Bisbee: Senator Gail Griffin, Representative David Gowan and Representative David Stevens.
"The ordinance seeks to change seven separate State statutes within the boundaries of the city, dealing with issues such as community property, inheritance of property, and appointment of personal representatives.
"The only proper way to change a statute is through the Legislature, not through actions of the City Council attempting to change a State statute within its boundaries. I emphasize that I am not expressing any opinion on the policy of the ordinance. My job is to enforce the laws that exist and I am obligated to respond to complaints from state legislators."
Earlier, the Phoenix-based Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative Christian advocacy group, said the ordinance scheduled for a Tuesday night vote by the Bisbee City Council would violate the Arizona Constitution's ban on same-sex marriage, and would be the subject of a costly legal fight.
If approved, the ordinance would make Bisbee the first Arizona city to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples, giving them the same rights in the city as married couples. The ordinance is reportedly more comprehensive than a Tucson measure enacted in 2003 that recognizes domestic partnerships.
Bisbee City Attorney John MacKinnon has said the ordinance's approval would mean people in civil unions would be considered spouses in such matters as property ownership and guardianship in cases of illness.
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation) contributed to this report.