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Couples challenge Alaska same-sex marriage ban

Posted: May 12, 2014 - 10:22pm  |  Updated: May 12, 2014 - 11:04pm

JUNEAU (AP) — Five gay couples filed a lawsuit Monday challenging Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional.

The Alaska lawsuit, filed in federal court in Anchorage, lists as plaintiffs four couples who were married outside Alaska and one unmarried couple. It alleges that Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage violates their rights to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit seeks to bar enforcement of Alaska’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. It also calls for barring enforcement of any state laws that refuse to recognize gay marriages legally performed in other states or countries or that prevent unmarried gay couples from marrying.

Alaska voters in 1998 approved a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. But in the past year, the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that prevented legally married same-sex couples from receiving a range of federal benefits. Federal courts also have struck down state constitutional bans in a number of states, though appeals were pending in a number of cases. States such as Illinois and Hawaii legalized same-sex marriage.

An attorney for the couples, Caitlin Shortell, said lawsuits have been filed in almost every state with bans on same-sex marriage. A lawsuit in Alaska was seen by those involved as “necessary and important,” Shortell said.

Another attorney, Heather Gardner, said in a statement that under current state law, “a couple who marries in Seattle and returns home to Alaska are married in the eyes of the law when their plane lifts off from SeaTac (airport) but are legal strangers when the flight touches down in Alaska. No Alaskan is a second-class citizen.”

The plaintiffs are Matthew Hamby and Christopher Shelden; Christina LaBorde and Susan Tow; Sean Egan and David Robinson; Tracey Wiese and Katrina Cortez; and Courtney Lamb and Stephanie Pearson. Lamb and Pearson are unmarried.

Hamby, in a statement, said he and his husband — who, according to the lawsuit were married in Canada in 2008 and renewed their vows in Utah last year — are taking a stand “because marriage should be available to all loving couples. It’s important to us that our family is recognized by the State of Alaska and that we have the same rights and privileges as others.”

Defendants include Gov. Sean Parnell and Attorney General Michael Geraghty, who earlier this year told The Associated Press he would continue to defend the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, even as federal courts around the country strike down similar bans.

The Alaska lawsuit was filed three days after a county circuit judge in Arkansas late Friday tossed out the 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, along with a 1997 state law. That state’s attorney general filed paperwork Monday to at least temporarily preserve the ban.

Geraghty said he would not make his decisions based on federal district court decisions that still must be reviewed by appellate courts and perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court, which he expects will ultimately weigh in on the issue.

“Would everybody vote the same way today? Who knows? But it’s on the books,” Geraghty told the AP in February. He added: “Eventually, as I said, one day there will be guidance. I’m sure one day there will be a decision one way or the other. And when that happens, obviously we will comply with the decision.”

A Parnell spokeswoman said by email late Friday afternoon that the governor’s office had not been served with the lawsuit and the Department of Law would need time to review any it.

A proposal to strike the same-sex marriage ban from Alaska’s constitution, introduced by Senate Minority Leader Hollis French, D-Anchorage, during the last legislative session, went nowhere. Republicans control both the Alaska House and Senate.

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Raoulduke 05/13/14 - 07:30 pm
This is Equality?

" Life,Liberty,and the Pursuit of Happiness" is for EVERYONE EQUALLY. Alaska's continued practice of second class status for some is not EQUALITY, and it is NON- AMERICAN.

Offcenter 05/14/14 - 06:51 am
voice of the people, until it's not

The same-sex movement is all for democracy and the will of the people until it votes against them. Then they cry foul on "higher grounds." Unfortunately, there is no "higher power" that condones their behavior, much less "marriage" between two people of the same sex. Unlike the abolition of slavery, any attempts to justify same sex relations on the Bible are obvious obfuscations of the text. If you appeal to a secular or Platonic philosophy, then ultimately you will get "the state giveth and the state taketh away." The state will be the ultimate power, and right and wrong are nothing more than the will of the majority. Remember, the full quote is "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights...Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Jefferson didn't put that in there just to look good. You pick: the will of the people or the will of the Creator. In this case, in Alaska, they happen to agree.

Norseman 05/14/14 - 05:50 pm
They will win this case. And

They will win this case. And rightly so. To continue to deny equal rights just because of the sex someone loves is totally against our concept of freedom.

We have gay and lesbians serving in our armed forces defending our Constitution and our country, but yet there remains a few who wish to deny them the same rights the rest of us have. This infuriates me. To think that they bleed and die just as as their fellow straight soldiers, but some old white haired guys do not want them to have the same rights ought to make this whole country be filled with shame and rage.

It is time to stop this bigotry and denial of our basic human rights.

"We have arrived at a point where the president of this country is going to lead a war on traditional marriage," Rush Limbaugh said on his show Wednesday.

His first, second, third, and fourth wives could not be reached for comment.

MelBrandle 05/14/14 - 07:29 pm
It all comes down to

It all comes down to ideology.

Raoulduke 05/17/14 - 08:15 pm
A book says

Yep! Praise the lord,and pass the ammunition.This is the justification to keep some Americans in a second class status?Forcing guilt upon homosexuals only contributes to their high suicide rate. Well! Your justification is WRONG.Everyone deserves to be treated equally.Does same sex couples marrying affect you personally? It doesn't me. I just do not believe.I am the one to tell anyone.Who they can love,or marry.I personally think same sex marriage isn't any big deal.Everyone has the unalienable right " To Be HAPPY".

msjinxie 05/19/14 - 11:44 am
Sorry Old School rules

Marriage should always be between a man and a woman period. The gay community needs to realize that just because they want to play house like couple, DOES NOT give them the right to all the things a man and woman share in marriage. WRONG. This whole country is nuts. I'm 48 years young, and have seen this turn from not acceptable behavior, to out in the open in your face 24 hours a day behavior. Its all over television, news, and now papers like its second nature. If you choose to live like that fine. Stop trying to move laws that are there for a reason. TO PREVENT DISEASE, to propagate, build a life for your children to draw from in their own lives. You add your own drama to your own lives people. What you do with your life is your biz. Keep it between yourselves, be a little more modest and less aggressive about it and move ON. We could all care less about what you want. We all want better education for our children, and yet we WASTE precious time and money on this???? That is a travesty.

Allen 05/19/14 - 05:24 pm
Mixing Religion and Civil Rights

This is what happens when the government mixes religion with civil rights. Current marriage laws are a jumble of secular and non-secular, which don't make any sense. Legally a marriage is considered a two-person partnership, with most of the same rules as a business partnership. Why can't same sex couples operate under the same rules?

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