The domino effect set in motion by last year’s U.S. Supreme Court DOMA decision continued Sunday as a U.S. District Judge in Alaska overturned the state’s 16-year-old marriage protection amendment.
Alaska had been the first state in the U.S. to enact such an amendment, which constitutionally defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
The decision is just the latest in a string of federal court decisions overturning established state laws banning the recognition of same-sex “marriage.” In the last month alone, thirteen states have had their marriage protection laws struck down, and the U.S. Supreme Court has so far refused to intervene.
Judge Timothy Burgess, an appointee of President George W. Bush, heard arguments Friday in the case, which was brought by five homosexual couples seeking to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex “marriage.” Burgess took only two days to make his decision, issuing a ruling Sunday declaring the ban unconstitutional.
“Refusing the rights and responsibilities afforded by legal marriage sends the public a government-sponsored message that same-sex couples and their familial relationships do not warrant the status, benefits and dignity given to couples of the opposite sex,” Burgess wrote in his 25-page ruling.
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“This Court finds that Alaska’s same-sex marriage laws violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment because no state interest provides `excessively persuasive justification’ for the significant infringement of rights that they inflicted upon homosexual individuals.”
Alaska began granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Monday morning. Meanwhile, the state must now recognize the “marriages” of gay couples who “wed” out-of-state.
Governor Sean Parnell, a Republican, vowed to appeal the ruling. “As Alaska's governor, I have a duty to defend and uphold the law and the Alaska Constitution,” Parnell said in a statement.
But any appeal must be heard by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, making success unlikely. The Ninth Circuit is notoriously liberal, and just last week upheld rulings striking down similar marriage protection laws in Idaho and Nevada.
The largest pro-family advocacy group in Alaska decried the ruling, calling it a “subversion of the democratic process.”
“According to [Judge] Burgess, 68% of Alaskans who voted in 1998 to protect natural marriage in our Constitution were motivated by nothing more than animus and bigotry,” wrote Jim Minnery of Alaska Family Action in a blog post. “Apparently, Burgess agrees with one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs suing the State who said that marriage is a ‘changing institution.’”
“Changing exactly into what is the most frightening aspect of this ruling,” Minnery added. “Under what logical rationale would the Courts now deny other ‘evolving’ forms of marriage? Three wives for one husband? Marrying your aunt or niece or brother? Group marriage involving any number of couples and individuals with various sexual orientations? Once you eliminate sexual complementarity from the marriage equation, is there any reason to keep other cornerstones we've all taken for granted for generations including exclusivity, permanence and monogamy?”
“Ultimately, marriage laws have never been about validating romantic relationships,” Minnery wrote. “You don’t need a marriage license to be emotionally involved with another person. The purpose of marriage is to ensure the right of children to a relationship with their mother and father. That, in turn, encourages stability and responsibility between mom, dad, and children so that the family endures through time.”
Asked Minnery, “Who is the true owner of our state constitution? Is it the people of Alaska or unelected men and women who happen to wear black robes? If it's the latter, then the idea that we live in a representative democracy is nothing more than wishful thinking.”