Marriage Equality USA

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State of Alaska
All in this Region

Current Status

  • Civil marriage equality in effect at the state level since October 2014. (Same-sex couples may legally marry.)
  • Same-sex marriage is legal in the the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska as of 2015.
  • 18 November 2014, the cost to the state of defending the Alaska ban on same-sex marriage has now topped six figures! See Hamby v. Parnell under LAWSUITS-PENDING below.

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

  • 28 October 2005, the AK Supreme Court ruled, in Alaska Civil Liberties Union v. State, that state and local government programs violated the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection provision by extending benefits to public employees’ spouses but denying benefits to employees’ domestic partners. The court held the programs unconstitutional because they denied benefits to people who are precluded, under Alaska’s marriage laws, from becoming eligible to receive them.
  • 17 November 2006, the Alaska House voted in favor of legislation ordering a non-binding referendum for a constitutional amendment to deny benefits to the same-sex partners of state employees. November 20, the Alaska Senate passed the bill and on December 20, Governor Sarah Palin signed it.
  • Since 1 January 2007, Alaska has provided very limited benefits to the same-sex partners of state employees.
  • 19 September 2013, the AK Division of Personnel and Labor Relations revised the definition of “immediate family” to include the same-gender partner of any state employee who takes leave because of that partner’s serious health condition.
  • The constitutional ban on same-sex marriage since 1998, per Resolution 42 and Ballot Measure 2, was ruled unconstitutional 12 October 2014 by U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess.

Legislation - Pending

House Joint Resolution 1: Gay Marriage

Date Introduced: 21 January 2015 (Prefile Release was on 9 January 2015)
Author/Sponsor: Rep. Andrew Josephson

Description:

  • 21 January 2015, Sponsor Statement: House Joint Resolution 1 proposes a constitutional amendment that would put before the voters the ability to remove Article 1, section 25. HJR1 would remove the definition of marriage from the Constitution of the State of Alaska.
    On October 12, 2014, a federal judge ruled that Alaska's ban on gay marriage was uncostitutional because it deprived individuals of basic due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The State of Alaska chose to appeal the ruling and requested a stay. On October 17, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Alaska's request for an emergency stay and marriages were allowed to continue.
    Alaska is the last state in the 9th Circuit Court to continue to appeal the ruling. Nevada, Idaho and Arizona have all dropped their appeals. During a time of fiscal constraints Alaska can not continue to pursue frivilous lawsuits.
    HJR1 would allow the voters to remove a blotch from the State Constitution and allow all individuals to enjoy the rights secured for them under the Constitution of the United States.
    I invite you to discuss this issue with me further and urge you to support this legislation.
  • 21 January 2015, referred to State Affairs

Legislation - Enacted

Resolution 42

Author/Sponsor:
Date Introduced: 1998
Date Enacted: November 1998, after Ballot Measure 2 was passed (See BALLOT INITIATIVES-RESOLVED below)

Description:

  • In response to the legal case Brause v. Bureau of Vital Statistics (see LAWSUITS-RESOLVED below), the Alaska Legislature immediately proposed and passed Resolution 42, which became what is now known as Ballot Measure 2 (see BALLOT INITIATIVES-RESOLVED below).
  • The text of the adopted amendment, which is found at Article I, section 25 of the Alaska Constitution, states: To be valid or recognized in this State, a marriage may exist only between one man and one woman.

Lawsuits - Pending

Hamby v. Parnell

Case #: 14-35856 (9th Circuit); 3:2014cv00089 (Federal District Court)
Date Filed: 14 April 2014
Date of Appeal: 13 October 2014

Description:

  • Suit by four same-sex couples married in other states to have their marriages legally recognized in Alaska, and one unmarried couple to obtain the right to marry.
  • 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.
  • Oral argument is set for 10 October 2014.
  • 29 August 2014, the plaintiffs filed a motion for Summary Judgement.
  • 6 October 2014, the plaintiffs filed a corrected reply in support of Summary Judgement.
  • 8 October 2014, oral argument set for 10 October 2014, parties will each have 30 minutes and should be prepared to discuss the 9th Circuit's recent decision in Latta
  • 12 October 2014, U.S. District Judge Timothy M. Burgess ruled that the Alaska ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional, violation both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
  • 12 October 2014, Gov. Sean Parnell said in a statement that he would appeal Burgess's decision.
  • 13 October 2014, the defendants filed a Notice of Appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and filed an emergency motion for a stay pending appeal on the October 12th ruling. 
  • 14 October 2014, a briefing schedule was ordered; the appeal has been docketed at the 9th Circuit with the state's opening brief due January 21.
  • 14 October 2014, Judge Burgess rendered his final judgement and denied the stay: "TMB TEXT ORDER denying the Emergency Motion to Stay Pending Appeal filed at docket 40 . (PRR, COURT STAFF) (Entered: 10/14/2014)"
  • 14 October 2014, the state filed a corrected emergency motion for stay pending appeal with the 9th Circuit. 
  • 15 October 2014, the plaintiffs filed their opposition to a stay.
  • 15 October 2014, a three judge motions panel of the 9th Circuit granted a temporary stay until 17 October 2014 at noon to allow the state "an opportunity to seek a stay from the United States Supreme Court. Barring any such stay from the Supreme Court, this court’s temporary stay dissolves at 12:00 p.m. PDT on October 17, 2014." 
  • 16 October 2014, the state applied to SCOTUS for an emergency stay pending appeal or a cert petition.
  • 17 October 2014, SCOTUS denied Alaska's request for a stay.
  • 22 October 2014, the state of Alaska filed its petition for initial en banc hearing in the appeal. 
  • 29 October 2014, the plaintiffs' attorneys filed a motion asking for $258K in attorneys' fees and expenses through 24 October 2014. Filed with the motion were a Memo in Support of Motion, Affidavit of Laurence Blakely, Declaration of Caitlin Shortell, and Declaration of Heather L. Gardner.
  • 18 November 2014, Cost to state of defending same-sex marriage ban tops $100,000 - By Suzanne Caldwell, Alaska Dispatch News
  • 20 November 2014, in a docket-text-only order, the 9th Circuit has denied the state's request for an initial en banc hearing: "No active judge has requested a vote to hear this case initially en banc within the time allowed by General Order 5.2a. The request is therefore denied. [9317194] (HH) [Entered: 11/18/2014 12:16 PM]"
  • 25 November 2014, the defendants filed their opposition to motion for attorneys' fees and costs.
  • 25 November 2014, Declaration of Asst. AG William Milks filed in support of motion.
  • 2 December 2014, the plaintiffs filed their Reply in support of their motion for attorney's fees, and a brief in support of their Reply.
  • 2 February 2015, the State filed a motion to put appeal on hold until U.S. Supreme Court decides marriage cases.
  • 23 February 2015, the State filed a Reply in support of putting appeal on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court decides the marriage cases.
  • 15 April 2015, Order filed on Attorney's Fees - granted in part, specifically granted but with rate and number of hours reduced. "For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS in part Plaintiffs’ motion at Docket 46 in the amount of $127,262.50 in attorneys’ fees to reflect the reductions as explained in this order and $458.40 in costs and other expenses for a total of $127,720.90."
  • 13 May 2015, two of the plaintiffs' attorneys -- Caitlin Shortell and Heather Gardner -- filed a motion for reconsideration of the order for attorneys' fees.
  • 3 June 2015, the defendants filed their Opposition to Motion for Reconsideration of Order on Attorney's Fees.

Lawsuits - Resolved

Debra Harris v. Millennium Hotel, et al.

Case #: S15230 (AK Supreme Court), 201116890 (District Level) 
Filing Date: 24 September 2012
Ruling Date: 25 July 2014

Description:

  • Lambda Legal filed suit because Alaska denies survivor benefits to same-gender couples, for whom marriage is banned by AK’s law and its constitution.
  • April 2013 Lambda Legal filed notice of appeal with the Alaska Workers' Compensation Appeals Commission.
  • 28 June 2013, the Alaska Workers' Compensation Appeals Commission issued a decision which affirmed the denial of Debbie's claim on statutory grounds without ruling upon her constitutional challenge.
  • July 2013 Lambda Legal filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court.
  • 14 October 2013, AWCAC filed their opening brief.
  • The Alaska Supreme Court heard argument in June 2014.
  • 25 July 2014, the AK Supreme Court ruled that the same-sex partner of someone killed on the job should have access to the AK workers’ compensation law.

Ballot Initiatives - Pending

None.

Ballot Initiatives - Passed

Ballot Measure 2 of 1998

Purpose of Ballot Measure: To amend the state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage in AK.
Date Passed: 3 November 1998

Description:

  • The ballot measure resulted from Resolution 42 (see LEGISLATION-ENACTED above), which was sparked by a lawsuit filed by Jay Brause and Gene Dugan, after the two men were denied a marriage license by the Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics.
  • The ballot measure passed with 68% of the vote.

Polls

  • On 5 February 2014, Public Policy Polling surveyed 850 registered AK voters on same-gender civil marriage, and reported that 47% support it, 46% do not, and 7% are unsure. In another question asked of the same voters, 44% said same-gender civil marriage should be legal, 27% said only civil unions should be legal, 26% said no same-gender couples should get any legal recognition, and 3% were unsure. Poll details.
  • On 8 February 2013 Public Policy Polling poll results showed that while Alaska voters weren't on board yet with same sex marriage, they were pretty strongly supportive of at least civil unions for gay couples. 43% of voters in the state thought gay marriage should be legal to 51% who still thought it should be illegal. 67% supported some form of legal recognition to just 30% who thought there should be none at all. Poll details.