Tag Archives: DOMA alaska

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.”

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


DOMA’s done

From the SCOTUSblog, explaining in plain English what the striking down of DOMA means:

“The federal Defense of Marriage Act defines “marriage,” for purposes of over a thousand federal laws and programs, as a union between a man and a woman only. Today the Court ruled, by a vote of five to four, in an opinion by Justice Kennedy, that the law is unconstitutional. The Court explained that the states have long had the responsibility of regulating and defining marriage, and some states have opted to allow same-sex couples to marry to give them the protection and dignity associated with marriage. By denying recognition to same-sex couples who are legally married, federal law discriminates against them to express disapproval of state-sanctioned same-sex marriage. This decision means that same-sex couples who are legally married must now be treated the same under federal law as married opposite-sex couples.”

Take note:  Because gay marriage is constitutionally banned in Alaska, the law does nothing for the couple that Sen. Lisa Murkowski wrote about when she came out against DOMA.  It only applies to couples in the 13 states that allow gay marriage.

The California ruling is a narrow one, and only allows gay marriage to go forward in that state.

Here’s what Murkowski said about the DOMA decision:

“I welcome today’s Supreme Court decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act because the federal government should empower households, respect the decisions of states and otherwise get out of the way.  This ruling represents victories for states’ rights and equal treatment under the law.”

More reactions and excerpts on the decision throughout the day.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com