Court Overturns Alaska's First-in-the-Nation Gay Marriage Ban
State's same-sex marriage ban made 'it is impossible to assert that all Alaskans are equal under the state’s laws,' GOP-appointed judge writes
A federal judge on Sunday afternoon struck down Alaska's gay marriage ban—the first of its kind, passed by voters in 1998.
"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," U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess, who was appointed by former president George W. Bush, wrote in the ruling (pdf). "By singling out homosexual couples and banning their ability to marry an individual of their choosing, it is impossible to assert that all Alaskans are equal under the state’s laws."
While the state quickly said it would appeal the decision, Alaska's Bureau of Vital Statistics said it would begin accepting applications for same-sex marriage licenses at 8 a.m. on Monday.
The decision comes on the heels of last week's ruling, by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, overturning similar marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada—as well as the U.S. Supreme Court's October 6 action that paved the way for gay marriage in at least five other states. Same-sex marriage advocates had said the 9th Circuit ruling would likely lead to the quick overturn of Alaska’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, because the bans were similar and Alaska also falls under the jurisdiction of that court.
The case, Hamby v. Parnell, was brought by five same-sex couples who sued to force Alaska to recognize their out-of-state marriages. The judge's decision makes Alaska the 30th state in the U.S. to allow gay marriage.
Same-sex marriage advocates, who have celebrated many victories over the last week, criticized the state's decision to appeal, saying it was a waste of taxpayer money.
And they said it's time for the right to marry to be afforded nationwide.
"Loving and committed couples in Alaska seek and deserve the same freedom to marry as couples in Hawaii, in Idaho, in Utah, and in Oregon, and that’s what yet another court in yet another state has held," said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry. "We are one country, with one Constitution. We believe in freedom and fairness, and cherish our families and our pursuit of happiness. It is time to end marriage discrimination throughout the land."