By Steve Quinn
JUNEAU Alaska (Reuters) - A U.S. federal judge on Sunday ruled that the state of Alaska's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
Judge Timothy Burgess of the U.S. District Court for Alaska made the ruling after hearing oral arguments on Friday challenging the state's 16-year-old ban.
“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 wrote.
He also barred Alaska from refusing to acknowledge lawful same-sex marriages conducted in other states.
Five couples, four of whom already had legally married in other states and a fifth wishing to marry in Alaska, filed their suit against the state in May challenging the ban.
In 1998, Alaska voters enacted a constitutional amendment that excludes same-sex couples from marriage.
The state contended that the voters should have the final word, not the courts.
(Reporting by Steve Quinn; Editing by Frank McGurty and Eric Walsh)