Alaska’s AG supported Nevada’s gay marriage ban. Now Nevada calls ban unconstitutional.

On Jan. 28, Alaska state Attorney General Michael Geraghty signed on to an amicus brief in support of Nevada’s voter approved, gay marriage ban, which is being challenged by eight same sex couples. On Monday, however, the Nevada Attorney General decided to drop its defense of the marriage ban, and is now arguing that the state’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

The Nevada’s AG office told the Ninth Circuit, which was hearing the case, that other court decisions, particularly the Supreme Court’s decision last June in United States v. Windsor which stuck down a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, “signifies that discrimination against same-sex couples is unconstitutional,” and that the ban “cannot withstand legal scrutiny.”

In January, Alaska’s Geraghty had argued that there is no constitutional right to gay marriage. What happens to that argument now? Or, as Alaska state Sen. Hollis French asked: “If we were willing to follow them before are we willing to follow them now?”

Likely not. The brief, according to the Alaska Department of Law, just goes away.

In other gay rights news:

  • On Wednesday in Kentucky, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled that the state was constitutionally obligated to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
  • Meantime, in Alaska, an amendment failed in the House Special Committee on Military and Veterans’ Affairs that would have granted same-sex couples who are in the military the same perks in applying for driving licenses as other couples. Republican committee co-chair Gabrielle LeDoux said she was going to wait until the Alaska court ruled on another gay rights issue before passing the amendment. “There’s no point in singling out this particular bill right now,” she said. Reps. Max Gruenberg and Neal Foster voted for the amendment. Reps. LeDoux, Pete Higgins and Shelley Hughes voted against it.

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4 thoughts on “Alaska’s AG supported Nevada’s gay marriage ban. Now Nevada calls ban unconstitutional.

  1. Kathleen

    I’m no lawyer, so I’m only guessing, but the SCOTUS ruling pretty much guaranteed that any state with a constitutional amendment banning SSM was going to be sued. An AG who signed an amicus brief is letting the other state, NV here, do the heavy lifting and pay the court costs. If a ruling had come down that supported the state amendment, the other state AGs (and ours) may have lessened the odds of getting sued. Of course, since it came down exactly opposite, the legislature better get a move on.

    Again, I’m just guessing that this was lawyer business rather than a political statement or an instance of integrity. I do believe, as you suggest, that his job includes advising the governor and legislature that Alaska is ripe for a successful lawsuit, especially considering how his vested interest in NV was decided. Can he come out and say that to the public? It might be a conflict of interest, like saying, “Please sue us; we’re completely vulnerable.”

  2. admin

    Kathleen. Amanda here. I totally agree that the AG has little power over Alaska’s gay marriage ban, unless he wanted to make a statement out it, which would surprise me, given the governor’s stance. However, he did, apparently on his own volition, sign the amicus brief supporting Nevada’s AG, which IS making a statement. So, I guess you could ask: If he had enough faith in the NV AG’s legal integrity then, why not now?

  3. Kathleen

    What do you do if you’re the AG of a state that has a constitutional amendment banning SSM? I would hope you would support the law, which is your job, until the legislature and voters change the law.

    The US Supreme Court has more or less made SSM bans unconstitutional at the federal level. The Nevada AG is in a corner. She has no legal way to argue her case, therefore she has dropped the suit with the consent of NV’s Republican governor, a former judge who would know the law extremely well. I appreciate that the NV AG, a Democrat who most likely prefers the ban didn’t exist, would do her job to the best of her ability. I want our AG to do the same.

    Just because the NV AG no longer has a case that she can move forward doesn’t mean that gay marriage is happening at the Strip chapels. Their legislature is moving to change the constitutional amendment that established the ban. Alaska is in the same boat. Let everyone do their job properly. Gay marriage in Alaska is in the hands of the legislature at this point, not the AG’s office.

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