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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 16 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 20
Alaska marriage ban challenged - Five couples file federal lawsuit
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Alaska marriage ban challenged - Five couples file federal lawsuit

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Five same-sex couples have filed suit in a U.S. District Court in Anchorage, Alaska, challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

Four of the couples were married outside Alaska and seek recognition of their marriages, and one unmarried couple seeks to be married in the state. Their suit charges that Alaska law violates their rights to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit seeks to bar enforcement of Alaska's 1998 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and any other state laws that refuse to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states or countries or that prevent unmarried same-sex couples from marrying.

'Under current Alaska law, a couple who marries in Seattle and returns home to Alaska are married in the eyes of the law when their plane lifts off from SeaTac, but are legal strangers when the flight touches down in Alaska,' said Heather Gardner, one of three Alaska attorneys representing the plaintiffs.

'No Alaskan is a second class citizen,' she said.

Another attorney for the couples, Caitlin Shortell, said lawsuits have been filed in almost every state with bans on same-sex marriage. A lawsuit in Alaska was seen by those involved, as 'necessary and important,' Shortell said.

With this suit, North Dakota and Montana are the only states whose marriage laws have not yet been challenged.

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.

'We are taking a stand because marriage should be available to all loving couples,' said Matthew Hamby who married his partner Christopher Shelden last year in Utah. 'It's important to us that our family is recognized by the State of Alaska and that we have the same rights and privileges as others.'

Defendants include Alaska's Governor Sean Parnell and Attorney General Michael Geraghty. Parnell's office told Associated Press that they had not yet been served with the lawsuit and the Department of Law would need time to review it before the Governor would be prepared to comment.

Geraghty told Associated Press earlier in the year that he would continue to defend the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, even if federal courts around the country strike down similar bans.

Geraghty said he would not make his decisions based on federal district court decisions that still must be reviewed by appellate courts and perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court, which he expects will ultimately decide the issue.

'Would [Alaska voters] vote the same way today? Who knows? But it's on the books,' Geraghty told the AP in February. 'Eventually, as I said, one day there will be guidance. I'm sure one day there will be a decision one way or the other. And when that happens, obviously we will comply with the decision.'

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