JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Citizens, not the courts, should decide whether the definition of marriage includes same-sex couples, the state of Alaska said in court papers filed Friday.
The state is defending in federal court an amendment to Alaska's constitution that bans gay marriage. In May, five same-sex couples — four married outside of Alaska and one unmarried couple — sued to overturn the ban approved by voters in 1998, saying it violates their rights to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution.
In a filing Friday, attorneys for the state said citizens have a fundamental right to decide whether to make changes to important institutions through the democratic process.
"The State of Alaska does not dispute that the residents of individual states have the right to change their marriage laws. ... However, the State urges that residents of Alaska possess the same fundamental right to retain the traditional definition of marriage. This basic premise of democratic government should not be usurped by the judiciary absent compelling circumstances which the State respectfully urges are not present in this case," the filing states.
The attorneys said that allowing Alaska residents to decide whether to keep the traditional definition of marriage, of being between one man and one woman, "serves the important governmental interests of supporting the democratic form of government."
The attorneys said there is no fundamental right to same-sex marriage under the due-process clause of the U.S. Constitution. The state also argues that Alaska laws prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriages from other states or countries do not violate the plaintiffs' constitutional rights.
The state said recent court decisions across the country in support of gay marriage don't point to a foregone conclusion in this case but to intervention by some courts into a law-making process that should be reserved for the people.
Oral arguments in the case have been set for next month.