A federal judge Sunday declared Alaska's gay marriage ban unconstitutional, calling it a "deprivation of basic due process and equal protection principles." The ruling by U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess stemmed from a suit filed in May by five same-sex couples challenging a state constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman.
“The court finds that 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 under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” Burgess ruled.
Gov. Sean Parnell said the ruling would be appealed.
“As Alaska’s governor, I have a duty to defend and uphold the law and the Alaska Constitution,” Parnell said in a statement.
Sunday's ruling came in the wake of the Supreme Court's refusal to take up the issue and a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals that overturned similar bans in Nevada and Idaho. Voters had adopted the ban in a 1998 referendum.
The Anchorage Daily news reported Alaska state officials were scrambling to determine whether marriage licenses can now be issued to same-sex couples. Cori Mills of the Department of Law said the agency was "reviewing the decision."
American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska Executive Director Joshua Deckler said Burgess' ruling means marriage licenses can be issued immediately. "Alaska's ban is a dead letter and the governor is just wasting taxpayer dollars," he said.