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Alaska governor
says state will provide benefits to same-sex partners

Alaska governor
says state will provide benefits to same-sex partners

Alaska governor Sarah Palin said the state will abide by an Alaska supreme court order to provide benefits to same-sex partners of state employees as of January 1. Palin's decision came one day after the Alaska supreme court told the state to stop dragging its feet and implement domestic-partner benefits, which were first ordered 14 months ago. "We believe we have no more judicial options," Palin said but added that she still wants voters in a special April election to consider the prospect of a constitutional amendment designed to prohibit such benefits. She signed into law a bill passed by state lawmakers in a November special session calling for voters to weigh in. Voters will be asked if the legislature should adopt a proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit the state or municipalities from providing these benefits. If there is overwhelming support, then legislators could pass a resolution with two-thirds support that would go before voters in the 2008 general election. The pending implementation is a long time coming, says Carrie Evans, state legislative director for Washington, D.C.-based gay rights group Human Rights Campaign. "We haven't seen that kind of defiance by the governor and legislature of a high court ruling; it's extraordinary," Evans said. "Some states just grumble. What we saw was Alaska digging in its heels." Alaska will become the 14th U.S. state that has a law, policy, or court decision that provides these benefits, according to the organization. For now, this ends a six year-battle for the American Civil Liberties Union and nine couples who filed a lawsuit challenging the lack of benefits for same-sex couples employed by the state and the municipality of Anchorage. The high court ruled in October 2005 that denying benefits to same-sex domestic partners violated the state's guarantee of equal protection for all Alaskans. (Steve Quinn, AP)

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