How DOMA decision might affect married gay couples in Alaska

I was wrong when I wrote earlier that the Supreme Court’s decision on DOMA wouldn’t affect gay couples in Alaska. Joshua Decker, Director of ACLU in Alaska told me that gay couples who married in one of the 13 states which allowed gay marriage should be able to receive the same federal benefits – over 1,000 of them — as other married couples. (Read the full list here).

But in fact they might not receive all of them. “Same-sex couples who have married in, say, New York state, and moved to Alaska may find that they will get only some federal benefits, not all, because their marriage is not recognized in Alaska,” Decker said.

The issue might be the amount of state involvement in federal programs and benefits.  Some such programs, like welfare and Medicaid, have strict federal guidelines. Other programs, like the Family Medical Leave Act, have more state involvement and defer more to state requirements.

Alaska Assistant Attorney General Cori Mills said that the Department of Law is still trying to get a grasp of the total ramifications of the ruling. What is clear, she said, is that Alaska law, which says that marriage is between a man and a woman, is still law.

We’ll see, but as Lyle Denniston from SCOTUSblog points out, the decision, related to benefits, “might be a particular problem for already-married gay couples serving in the military, who often have to move from state to state.”

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