Alaska gay couples apply for marriage licenses after judge drops ban

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 13, 2014 3:26 PM

By Steve Quinn

JUNEAU Alaska (Reuters) - Alaska officials began accepting marriage license applications from gay couples on Monday, even as the state sought to appeal a weekend ruling by a federal judge that struck down the state ban's on same-sex nuptials.

In the latest victory for U.S. supporters of same-sex matrimony, U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess on Sunday struck down a ban on gay marriage approved by Alaska voters in 1998, saying it violated U.S. constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law.

He also barred Alaska from refusing to acknowledge lawful same-sex marriages conducted elsewhere, in a move that followed a week of legal victories for gay marriage that could see such nuptials extended to 35 states.

A day after the ruling, Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics Section Chief Phillip Mitchell said the state had received 15 marriage license applications from same-sex couples, but noted Alaska makes all couples wait three days to wed.

"It feels like we've been waiting forever," Courtney Lamb, one of the plaintiffs who sued in May to overturn the ban, told an Anchorage news conference, according to the Alaska Dispatch News.

Lamb and her partner, Stephanie Pearson, were among the first in line on Monday to apply for a license in Anchorage, said their attorney, Allison Mendel.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined last Monday to hear appeals in gay marriage cases in five states, leaving intact appeals court rulings that struck down gay marriage prohibitions in those states.

The following day, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down same-sex marriage bans in Nevada and Idaho in a ruling that promised a ripple effect on other states under that court's jurisdiction, including Alaska.

Alaska filed a notice of intent on Monday to appeal the ruling to the 9th Circuit and requested a stay on all marriage applications pending the outcome of the appeal.

"It's disappointing that the state is going to throw more time and state money on this," Mendel said.

(Reporting by Steve Quinn in Juneau, Alaska; Editing by Eric M. Johnson, Will Dunham and Peter Cooney)