Tag Archives: gay marriage alaska

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.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com 


Gay marriage wins in December

Gay marriageFirst New Mexico on Dec. 19 ruled for gay marriage, then Utah did so on Dec. 20. Three days later, a federal judge in Ohio ruled on a case which chips away at the state’s gay marriage ban. Jeff Toobin from the New Yorker calls the Ohio case the most important decision yet:

“(T)wo days before Christmas, a federal court in Ohio issued a lower-profile decision that may have been the most important of all. James Obergefell and John Arthur, who lived together in Cincinnati, married in Maryland at a time when Arthur was gravely ill. In anticipation of Arthur’s death, the couple petitioned the state of Ohio for Arthur to be listed as ‘married’ on his Ohio death certificate, and to record Obergefell as the ‘surviving spouse.’ Ohio, which does not allow same-sex marriages, refused, but federal judge Timothy S. Black ruled against the state and in favor of the couple. The judge said it was ‘not a complicated case.’ Throughout Ohio’s history, Ohio has treated marriages solemnized out of state as valid in Ohio. ‘How then can Ohio, especially given the historical status of Ohio law, single out same-sex marriage as ones it will not recognize?’ Black asked in his opinion. ‘The short answer is Ohio cannot.'”

If the Utah ruling stands, the number of states that allow gays and lesbians to wed will be 18, up from nine states, plus the District of Columbia in January. Still, 32 states prohibit same-sex marriage, and 28 of them, including Alaska, have prohibitions in their state constitutions. None of those states have overturned those prohibitions.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com 


State board rules gay partners are ‘family’ over objection of Rep. Lora Reinbold

gay rights State of Alaska employees who are in same sex relationships will now be able to take leave due to a serious health condition of a same-sex partner. Like employees in heterosexual relationships, gay partners of state employees will now be defined as “immediate family,” the state personnel board decided on Thursday.

The rule goes into effect Oct. 16 19.

Gay marriage is constitutionally banned in Alaska. However, in 2005, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that because of the prohibition, it was unconstitutional to deny gay couples benefits that the state provides to heterosexual couples.

The state has mostly complied with the order. But it took the ACLU of Alaska to write a letter on behalf of a corrections officer to bring this to the court-ordered standard.

No matter that the state was complying with a Supreme Court decision, this issue still wrought controversy.

Alaska state Rep. Lora Reinbold, a Republican from Eagle River and chair of the Administrative Review Committee, wrote a letter to the board, urging it to delay voting on the issue. She said that the decision would be giving “special privileges to individuals who have in fact made a Life-Style Choice.” It’s a choice, she asserts, that has “no legal standing;” however, she provides no supporting documentation. She appears either unaware of the Supreme Court decision or chooses to disregard it.

She also wrote that calling gay couples “family” is “not in keeping with my interpretation of statue or the legislative intent.”

The State of Alaska Personnel Board is a three member board appointed by the governor and approved by the Legislature, which does not oversee the board.

Others wrote in support of the decision. A local medical doctor wrote that the Alaska Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatricians all have stated that equal rights for same sex partners and their families “create a more healthy family environment.”

Another wrote that her partner of 13 years has breast cancer, and that this proposal is “not giving any special rights but an equal right to all employees.”

In 2006, Gov. Sarah Palin vetoed a bill that would have prohibited the state from adopting the court-ordered, same-sex regulations. The law was unconstitutional, she said.

Palin is against same sex marriage. However, she said that “signing his bill would be in direct violation of my oath of office.”

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com