For all intents and purposes, the constitutional ban on gay marriage in Alaska and other Western states was struck down on Tuesday by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The court overturned bans in Nevada and Idaho specifically, saying that such bans violate gay couples’ equal protection rights. Alaska is part of the 9th Circuit, so presumably that ruling stands in this state as well.
The State of Alaska is likely to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, it’s improbable that the high court will overturn the 9th Circuit’s decision, just as it didn’t overturn another circuit’s ruling on Monday.
The state voted in 1998 to amend its constitution to include the gay marriage ban. A case challenging that ban is scheduled to be heard in federal court in Anchorage on Friday.
I’ve got calls into the Department of Law, the governor’s office and the ACLU. I’ll update when I get more information.
Updated: A spokesperson for the Department of Law said that the department is still reviewing the decision and as of today, the state still plans to challenge the case on Friday. Gov. Sean Parnell declined to comment pending DOL’s review. Josh Decker, executive director of the ACLU of Alaska, said that the court “squarely and conclusively rejected” Idaho’s and Nevada’s marriage bans. He also said that there is “no daylight” between what Idaho and Nevada were arguing in defending their bans, and what Alaska has argued defending its ban. And because the 9th Circuit controls Alaska, the state should declare Alaska’s ban unconstitutional. To not do so would be to “continue to waste taxpayer dollars,” Decker said.
If the state continues to insist on defending the ban, it’ll be very interesting to see what U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess does with this on Friday afternoon. There a possibility that he could rule from the bench, which would be a lot of dramatic fun.