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Supreme Court Takes Alaska Marriage Equality Off Ice

Supreme Court Takes Alaska Marriage Equality Off Ice

The U.S. Supreme Court Friday refused to extend a hold placed on a federal judge's ruling striking down Alaska's ban on same-sex marriage, clearing the way for same-sex couples to once again apply for marriage licenses in the Frontier State. 

In a one-sentence order without further explanation, U.S. Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy denied Alaska governor Sean Parnell's request to delay implementation of a ruling handed down Sunday by U.S. District Court judge Timothy Burgess, which found the Alaska state constitution's ban on same-sex marriage to violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 

According to BuzzFeed legal editor Chris Geidner, same-sex couples in Alaska can begin applying for marriage licenses immediately, though the state mandates a three-day waiting period between the initial application and the time a couple receives their marriage license. However, county officials in Barstow, Alaska, the northernmost town in the United States, waived that waiting period on Monday, prompting several couples to become the first legally married same-sex couples in the state. 

Governor Parnell, a Republican, first asked Burgess to put his ruling on hold Tuesday — a request Burgess denied the following day. Then Parnell turned to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which holds jurisdiction over Alaska and eight other states, and was granted a temporary stay on the order until noon today, giving the governor time to ask the Supreme Court for a longer hold as the state attempts to appeal the ruling. 

Today's order from the Supreme Court denied that request, falling in line with a similar denial October 10 when Idaho officials sought to delay the issuance of licenses to same-sex couples. Following that denial, same-sex couples began marrying in Idaho on Thursday. 

Although Alaska now has legal marriage equality, same-sex couples may have to wait until Monday to begin applying for licenses, as most state courts offices are closed today in observence of Alaska Day, according to the Alaska Court System's website. 

Nevertheless, when the county clerks' offices reopen Monday, it appears they will be ready to accept applications from same-sex couples, as application forms have already been amended to read "Party A" and "Party B" rather than "Bride" and "Groom."

As the Human Rights Campaign noted, today's decision is the third time the nation's high court has essentially affirmed the freedom to marry by refusing to intervene or put on hold pro-equality rulings.  

The first time came earlier this month, when the Supreme Court declined to hear seven marriage equality cases from five states, letting lower court rulings stand and bringing the freedom to marry to Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Indiana. 

The Supreme Court again refused to step in and stop the spread of marriage equality October 10, when Justice Kennedy denied a stay in the Idaho case, clearing the way for same-sex couples to begin marrying there. 

The third time arrived today in a similarly concise but decisive order from Kennedy, who oversees petitions from the Ninth Circuit. After Arizona embraced marriage equality earlier today in the wake of a federal judge's pro-equality ruling, Montana is now the only state remaining in the Ninth Circuit without marriage equality. Officials there have argued that the Ninth Circuit precedent does not apply to Montana.

As of press time, marriage equality is now legal in 31 U.S. states, and the District of Columbia, according to HRC. Take a look at HRC's latest map below. 

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