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Same sex marriage (SSM) in Alaska

Part 3:
2014-OCT: Alaska's District Court issued its
ruling. Same-sex couples obtain marriage licenses.

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This topic is a continuation of the previous essay

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wedding ringsFriday, 2014-OCT-10: U.S. District Court in Alaska held hearings in a same-sex marriage case: Hamby v. Parnell.

District Court Judge Timothy Burgess heard oral arguments from both sides: from the government of the State of Alaska who want to maintain marriage inequality, and from a group of same-sex plaintiff couples who are attempting to have the state constitution's ban on same-sex marriages declared unconstitutional.

Many observers probably felt that the final outcome of the case is obvious. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals had issued a ruling three days earlier for the Idaho same-sex marriage case Latta v. Otter. That panel of judges determined that the Idaho ban violated the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Thus, the ban is unconstitutional and unenforceable. That clause requires all federal, state, and local governments to treat people equally. The panel of judges reasoned that if opposite-sex couples can marry, then same-sex couples must be able to marry as well in order to meet the requirements of the 14th Amendment. The Circuit Court panel stayed their ruling pending a possible appeal. Since the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over both Alaska and Idaho, then Judge Burgess can be expected to follow the very recent precedent established by the Circuit Court, unless there are some unique circumstances that make the Alaska ban unique.

However, there do not appear to be any obvious differences between same-sex couples in Idaho and similar couples in Alaska. The constitutional bans in Idaho and Alaska have the same effect: the banning of marriage by same-sex couples. There are no obvious differences that could justify treating couples from the two states differently in terms of marriage access.

The state argued that Idaho decision might be appealed to the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals or to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, in an incredible example of bad timing, the stay on same-sex marriages in Idaho was lifted just as the arguments in the Alaska District Court were concluding. 1 Same-sex couples started to obtain licenses and marry in Idaho.

Lawyer Alison Mendel represented the same-sex couples. She talked about her feelings about the hearing:

"It was very enjoyable. You know we came into this pretty confident we were going to win. When the Latta [v. Otter] decision was decided, we knew we were going to win. So this was just an argument about the details. But it’s still very satisfying anyway."

Josh Hemsath is the full time Regional Development Organizer for the Pride Foundation in Alaska -- a pro-equality non-profit group. He said he’s hopeful:

"As an Alaskan, I think it’s really exciting that we’re not being left behind. We’re not the last state to get heard, with the momentum on our side and being on the right side of history."

Judge Timothy Burgess said he would issue a decision "soon." 1

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Sunday, 2014-OCT-12: District Court Judge legalized same-sex marriage in Alaska:

Judge Timothy Burgess released his decision. He found that Alaska's ban on marriages by same-sex couples violated both the due process and equal protection clauses in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

He wrote:

"The court finds that Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage and refusal to recognize same sex marriages lawfully entered in other states is unconstitutional as a deprivation of basic due process and equal protection principles under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution." 2

He did not issue a stay on his order. Rather, he ordered the state to immediately start issuing marriage licenses and to start to recognize legal marriages that had earlier been solemnized in other states. According to van Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, this ruling makes Alaska the 30th state to attain marriage equality. 2

Judge Burgess' ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in Alaska is the latest in a string of about three dozen courts' rulings on this topic. All but one of these prior decisions concluded that a state ban violates the due process and/or equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Judge Burgess agreed, having concluding that Alaska's ban violated both clauses.

Some of the couples have been waiting for decades for the right to marry. They will have to wait a little longer, because Alaska requires a minimum of 72 hours between the issuance of a marriage license and the subsequent marriage. 3

Some of the above information was picked up from an article by Anne Hillman of KSKA - Anchorage. Only one reader of the article posted a comment. It was by Dan Harrington We have trimmed it down for copyright reasons:

"These types of activist judgments are the result of decades of political correctness telling us what is ok and what is not. Only the occasional mental midget or weak minded liberal zealot, thinks it's ok when their child tells them they're gay. ... What have we become as a society that abnormal life choices warrant tax benefits and special privilege legislations that punish normal behaviors with higher taxes and reduced job opportunities? Yes, there are some very extreme financial consequences of these types of actions that pro gay extremists fail to bring to light intentionally, most notably the 3-9 percent tax increases in places that have made the change. ... I'm really tired of the government forcing me and America into changing my beliefs to appease every a normalcy they hope will get them a vote.

Bruce Robinson, the author of this essay, was moved to post a response. I try to not include my personal opinions in my writing, but since this is a posting to balance a homophobic rant, I feel that it is OK to repeat here. I replied:

"Please consider what is normal sexually. In the average group of 100 newborns, 90 will grow up and realize that they are heterosexual. 5 will realize that they are gay or lesbian. 5 will realize that they are bisexual; they are sexually attracted to both men and women but not necessarily to the same degree. That is what is normal.

In 1973, over 40 years ago, the American Psychiatric Association recognized that having a homosexual or bisexual sexual orientation is not a mental illness. It is a normal and natural sexual variant seen in every species of mammal on earth.

Humans are social animals. In America, people are forming couples continually. Two people meet; they feel that they are attracted to each other, they start to date, they fall in love. If all goes well, they decide to live together and get engaged -- not necessarily in that order. In the past, as long as they were an opposite-sex couple they could obtain a marriage license and marry. From now on, all couples will be able to do this in Alaska -- both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.

If you are so concerned about tax increases then why not advocate that the state forbid left handed people from marrying. That makes as much sense as forbidding same-sex couples from marrying. It would probably save a lot more than 3 to 5%. Full disclosure: I am left handed.

You don't have to change your beliefs. You can still hate every lesbian, gay, and bisexual, sight unseen. All you have to do is to decide to remain living in the U.S. in spite of seeing all these happy, loving, committed same-sex couples getting married." 3

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Monday 2014-OCT-13: Same-sex couples in Alaska apply for marriage licenses:

The "two-way," a service of National Public Radio reported:

"Same-sex couples in Alaska and North Carolina are receiving marriage licenses, after courts in those states recently overturned bans on gay marriage. The two states are part of the cascading effects of the Supreme Court's refusal to review any appeals [from three Circuit Courts of Appeals] in same-sex marriage cases in its current term.

Some couples say they're rushing to marry out of concern that future rulings could go against them; others are merely pouncing on an opportunity they had long awaited." 4

Many same-sex couples have noticed that when courts open the window to marriage equality and marriage licenses start to be distributed to such couples, the window is often slammed shut within hours or days. Speed is often of the essence. Many same-sex couples who are anxious to marry prepare in advance to pounce on their county clerk's office without delay to obtain their marriage licenses and marry.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Judge to rule on same-sex marriage in Alaska 'soon'," Alaska Public Media, 2014-OCT-10, at: http://www.alaskapublic.org/
  2. Michelle Theriault Boots and Suzanna Caldwell, "State vows to appeal after Alaska's same-sex marriage ban struck down," Alaska Dispatch News, 2014-OCT-12, at: http://www.adn.com/
  3. Anne Hillman, "Same-Sex Marriage is Legal in Alaska," KSKA - Anchorage, 2014-OCT-12, at:http://www.alaskapublic.org/
  4. Bill Chappell, "North Carolina And Alaska Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses," NPR's 'The two-way,' 2014-OCT-13, at: http://www.npr.org

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted:
2014-OCT-14
Latest update: 2014-OCT-24
Author: B.A. Robinson
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