A federal judge has just struck down a ban on same-sex marriages in Alaska, ruling it unconstitutional. The first ban of its kind became a constitutional amendment in 1998 when voters approved the definition of marriage being between a man and a women. U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess’s ruling means, for the first time in Alaska, gay couples will have the same rights to marriage as their counterparts.
Sharon Leighow said in an email to the Associated Press, “The State plans on appealing the ruling,” Leighow is a spokeswomen for the Alaska Governor Sean Parnell. Parnell and Attorney General Michael Geraghty said earlier this year, “They would stand firm on the ban even as federal courts were striking down similar same-sex bans across the country.”
In an order released on Sunday by Burgess, “found that by not recognizing other state’s same-sex marriages and Alaska’s own ban was a violation of the constitution under the fourteenth Amendment. The case at the center of this is the Hamby suit, which was filed in May. It represents five gay couples, in which four are already married in states that allow same-sex marriage.
Alaska Falls under the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who, with a three judge panel, recently over turned related gay-marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada. Idaho officials asked for a temporary delay in the ruling shortly after the court made the decision. On Friday that ban was lifted and same-sex couples have been allowed to marry. Couples in Nevada were allowed to marry without delay as the state did not appeal the court’s decision. There is a three-day gap Alaska has between applying for a marriage license and the ceremony, with the state appealing the verdict, it is unclear if couples will be able to apply on Monday morning.
With the court’s ruling same-sex marriages legal in 13 states during this month alone, unconstitutional bans may be a thing of the past. To date, 27 states now allow marriage between same-sex partners. “Parnell is only wasting tax payer’s money by appealing the ruling since they do not stand a chance.” said Josh Decker, ACLU Executive Director. With the speed Burgess took to make his decision, two days after hearing oral arguments, “It sends a clear message that the courts are ready to end this discrimination through out the country.”
Courtney Lamb and Stephanie Pearson, the two unmarried plaintiffs in the Hamby case, said on Sunday after hearing word, “We plan on being the first people at the Bureau of Vital Statistics.” Phillip Mitchell, head of the Bureau, believes the office will be quite busy come Monday morning. Other plaintiffs got together on Sunday night to celebrate the news whether in person or via phone call.
The Governor stands by the Alaskan Constitution and “Will defend it.” He said in an email regarding the appeal coming out of his office. Same-sex marriage advocates believe the ban will be nullified after the 9th Circuit ruling earlier this week. With same-sex bans being lifted all over the country by courts ruling it unconstitutional, the future is looking bright for advocates who have fought for so long to bring this course to light.
By Paul Sears
Featured image by Nathan Rupert Flickr
Photo by Alan C Flickr