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Alaska Has Become The 30th Marriage Equality State

CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK/FON THACHAKUL
CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK/FON THACHAKUL

The week’s momentum for marriage equality did not end with the arrival of the weekend. On Sunday afternoon, Federal Judge Timothy Burgess, a George W. Bush appointee, ruled that Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, officially making it the 30th marriage equality state — and the 11th in the past week.

Burgess’ ruling largely follows the Ninth Circuit’s opinion from this past week, which controls in this case, and also cites some of the opinions from other circuits as well. Still, he makes a few points of his own to counter the arguments put forth by the state.

For example, Alaska contended in court that its ban on same-sex marriage did not violate same-sex couples’ equal protection because it did not directly target them. Not only did Burgess find this claim unconvincing, he pointed out that it doesn’t matter, because “the fact is that the laws do discriminate.” “By singling out homosexual couples and banning their ability to marry an individual of their choosing, it is impossible to assert that all Alaskans are equal under the state’s laws,” he wrote.

The state had also argued that the ban, as worded, was not designed to prevent same-sex couples from marrying, but to promote the marriage of different-sex couples. “Rather than promoting marriage between a man and woman by granting them additional rights and privileges,” Burgess countered,” the apparent purpose and practice effect of Alaska laws is to impose inequality upon same-sex couples by denying them the rights and privileges afforded heterosexual couples.”

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Burgess immediately enjoined the state from enforcing its ban, but the state could still request a stay. Given the Supreme Court didn’t entertain Idaho’s stay for very long, it’s unlikely Alaska would be treated any differently.