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Same sex marriage (SSM) and civil unions in Alaska


The path to attaining same-sex
marriage in Alaska: 1994 to 2014

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wedding ringsOverview:

The State of Alaska had never authorized a marriage between persons of the same gender prior to 2014.

In 1994-AUG, Jay Brause and Gene Dugan challenged the state's marriage act. They had been involved in a partnership for almost 20 years. They petitioned the state court to force the State of Alaska to recognize their relationship by allowing them to marry. A state Superior Court judge ruled that they have a right to a marriage license, unless the state can provide a compelling case why that would be against the best interest of the people of Alaska.

Religious and social conservatives in Alaska prepared Measure 2. This was considered a revision to the state Constitution by some and an amendment to the Constitution by others. Its intent was to ban same-sex marriages. It was promoted as a permanent ban that the state courts could not overturn. Fortunately for same-sex couples, the change to the Constitution did not prevent a federal court from ruling Measure 2 to be unconstitutional a decade and a half later.

On election day, 1998-NOV-3, the public voted and overwhelmingly approved Measure 2. It allowed the legislature to pass any legislation it wishes concerning marriage as long as only opposite-sex couples could marry. This was the first state to add an anti-same-sex marriage amendment to their constitution.

In the years following, 27 other states also amended their constitutions to install their own bans. Many were stealth amendments that were intensively promoted as preventing same-sex marriages, but actually banned same-sex marriages, civil unions, and domestic partnerships. The latest, and perhaps the last, amendment to be passed was a stealth amendments during 2012 in North Carolina.

Brause and Dugan's case was finally dismissed in 1999-SEP.

The topic remained relatively inactive for over 15 years, during which no same-sex couples were allowed to marry.

On 2014-OCT-06, in an unexpected move, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant certiorari to a same-sex marriage case from Utah. That is, they refused to accept an appeal of a lawsuit from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. By doing so, it made Utah's ban unconstitutional as a matter of settled law. Similarly, the high court refused to accept appeals to two other Circuit Courts involving three other lawsuits that directly affected four more states.

The end result was that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision:

  • Caused same-sex marriage to come to five states by OCT-07.

  • Since the decisions by all three Circuit Courts became settled law, all of the states within the jurisdiction of each of these Circuit Courts are expected to make same-sex available. This would bring marriage equality to six more states. However some of the states are resisting this change.

The state of Alaska is under the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. It was not directly affected by the Supreme Court's decision on OCT-06. However it may have indirectly triggered a decision by U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess a few days later. His ruling legalized same-sex marriage in Alaska on Sunday, 2014-OCT-12. Many same-sex couples obtained marriage licenses the next day and would have been eligible to be married on OCT-16.

However, the state requested a emergency stay from the 9th Circuit Court to prevent them from marrying. A stay was granted, but only for two days, in order for the state to request a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court. The State of Alaska appealed to Justice Kennedy on the high court. Their request for a stay was denied on Friday, OCT-17 at 11 AM. Same-sex couples started to obtain their marriage licenses that day. After the mandatory three day waiting interval, they were free to marry.

Marriage equality has come to another state. I think that this makes 30 states and the District of Columbia that have attained marriage equality, but don't quote me. The number is incrementing frequently. When Alaska attained marriage equality, same-sex couples became able to marry in 63% of the jurisdictions in the U.S.

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Topics discussed in this section:

  • Part 1: Attempts to legalize marriage for same-sex couples in Alaska, between 1994 & mid-1998.

  • Part 2: Attempts to legalize marriage, between mid-1998 & 2014.

  • Part 3: 2014-OCT: District Court held hearings and issues ruling. Same-sex couples obtain marriage licenses.

  • Part 4: 2014-OCT: Same-sex couples apply for marriage licenses (Cont'd). State requests emergency stay from District Court. It is denied. One couple marries. The rest follow.

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Copyright 2002 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2014-OCT-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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