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Marriage Equality Arrives in Alaska
October 12, 2014 by Stephen Peters
Today, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess ruled Alaska’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, making Alaska the latest state to see such a ban struck down in court since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its historic marriage rulings last June. In Hamby v. Parnell, five couples sued the state arguing that Alaska’s ban on marriage equality violates the U.S. Constitution. In his ruling, Judge Burgess wrote, “The court finds that Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage and refusal to recognize same sex marriages lawfully entered in other states is unconstitutional as a deprivation of basic due process and equal protection principles under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.” With today’s ruling, 30 states plus the District of Columbia now guarantee marriage equality for same-sex couples. In 1998, Alaska’s constitutional amendment was the first state constitutional ban in the nation prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying.
“According to today’s federal court ruling in Alaska and numerous others over the last year, there is no justifiable reason to keep these discriminatory marriage bans on the books,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “The truth is, laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying serve no purpose other than to harm Americans who simply want to protect and provide for themselves and their families. Ultimately, the U.S. Constitution does not allow states to continue discriminating against committed and loving gay and lesbian couples.”
Barring an unexpected stay from either the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court of the United States, same-sex couples in Alaska can apply for marriage licenses when the clerks offices open.
Last Tuesday, a three-judge panel for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that state bans barring marriage for same-sex couples are unconstitutional. In a decision authored by Judge Reinhardt, who was joined by Judge Gould and Judge Berzon, the court found that Idaho and Nevada’s marriage bans violated the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on the basis of equal protection.
Last Monday, the nine justices of the Supreme Court announced they had declined to hear any of the cases pending before them challenging state bans on marriage for same-sex couples. This allowed the circuit court decisions striking down the bans to stand.
With Alaska, same-sex couples will now be able to legally marry in 30 states and the District of Columbia:
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
The decisions of the past week will likely soon have implications for the remaining states in the Ninth, Fourth and Tenth circuits: Arizona, Kansas, Montana, South Carolina, and Wyoming.
Gallup puts support for marriage equality at 55 percent – an astonishing 15 point increase from just 5 years ago – with other polls showing support at even higher margins. And support for same-sex marriage rights continues to grow in virtually every demographic group. According to ABC News / Washington Post, 77 percent of adults under age 30 favor marriage equality. 40 percent of Republicans – an all-time high and jump of 16 points in under two years – now support marriage for gay and lesbian couples, while the number of Catholics supporting marriage has grown to 62 percent, according to the New York Times. These numbers continue to grow, with no indication that support will slow down.