Couples challenging Alaska’s gay-marriage ban

JUNEAU, Alaska — Five gay couples are challenging Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional.

A lawsuit on behalf of the couples was expected to be filed in federal court Monday.

Alaska voters in 1998 approved a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. But in the past year, the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that prevented legally married same-sex couples from receiving a range of federal benefits. Federal courts also have struck down state constitutional bans in a number of states, though appeals were pending. States such as Illinois and Hawaii legalized same-sex marriage.

The lawsuit lists as plaintiffs four couples who were married outside Alaska and one unmarried couple. It alleges that Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage violates their rights to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit seeks to bar enforcement of Alaska’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and enforcement of any state laws that refuse to recognize gay marriages legally performed in other states or countries.

Defendants include Gov. Sean Parnell and Attorney General Michael Geraghty, who earlier this year told The Associated Press he would continue to defend the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, even as federal courts around the country strike down similar bans. Geraghty said he would not make his decisions based on federal district court decisions that still must be reviewed by appellate courts and perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court, which he expects will ultimately weigh in.

“Would everybody vote the same way today? Who knows? But it’s on the books,” he told the AP in February. He added: “Eventually, as I said, one day there will be guidance. I’m sure one day there will be a decision one way or the other. And when that happens, obviously we will comply with the decision.”

A county circuit judge in Arkansas late Friday tossed out the 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, along with a 1997 state law. With weddings Saturday and Monday, Arkansas became the 18th state to allow same-sex marriages, and the first among former states of the Confederacy. The Arkansas attorney general filed paperwork Monday to at least temporarily preserve the ban.

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