Alaska’s Ban On Same-Sex Marriage Declared Unconstitutional

A federal judge has ruled that Alaska’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. In 1998, Alaska’s state constitution was amended to define marriage as a union between “a man and a woman.” U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess has now determined that the provision violates the United States Constitution.

In May, five same-sex couples challenged the state of Alaska’s constitution. The case concluded with oral arguments on Friday afternoon. On Sunday, Burgess ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, who were represented by attorney Caitlin Shortell.

Judge Burgess cites the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees due process and equal protections.

“… 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… ”

In his formal ruling, Burgess compared Alaska’s gay marriage ban to historical interracial marriage bans. He went on to explain that the court’s duty was “not to determine or mandate a particular moral code.” Instead, the court was required to define “the liberty of all.”

As reported by KTUU News, Burgess further stated that the government “cannot impose a traditional or faith-based limitation on a public right.”

Representatives with Alaska’s ACLU, Identity Inc., and Pride Foundation, applauded the decision to end Alaska’s same-sex marriage ban. ACLU Executive Director Joshua Decker said Burgess’ decision will end 16 years of “social injustice.” Decker said the reversal is a victory for “thousands of Alaskan couples.”

Although Judge Burgess’ ruling was met with a degree of enthusiasm, Alaska’s governor, Sean Parnell, plans to appeal the decision. Parnell said it is his duty as governor to uphold and protect Alaska’s constitution.

Despite the expected appeal, Burgess’ decision will allow gay couples to legally marry in the state of Alaska. As reported by Alaska Dispatch News, the ruling is “an immediate injunction.” Additionally, Alaska will be obligated to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

The ruling will certainly remain a point of controversy and heated debate. Although same-sex marriages are legally recognized by the federal government, many states continue to ban gay marriage.

Fox News reports that the Supreme Court recently opened the door for same-sex marriages in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. As the high court refused to hear appeals from those five states — appeals filed by Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming, will likely have the same fate.

Although Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage was ruled unconstitutional, Governor Parnell is moving forward with his appeal.

[Image via Alaska Commons]