This 2012 photo provided by Chris Shelden shows Matt Hamby, left, and his husband, Shelden, right, at Ruth Glacier in Denali National Park, Alaska. The couple from Anchorage, Alaska, married in Canada and renewed their vows last year when same-sex marriage was briefly allowed in Utah. On Monday, they joined four other same-sex couples in suing the state of Alaska in federal court, arguing the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage violates their rights to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution. (AP Photo/Courtesy Chris Shelden)

This 2012 photo provided by Chris Shelden shows Matt Hamby, left, and his husband, Shelden, right, at Ruth Glacier in Denali National Park, Alaska. The couple from Anchorage, Alaska, married in Canada and renewed their vows last year when same-sex marriage was briefly allowed in Utah. On Monday, they joined four other same-sex couples in suing the state of Alaska in federal court, arguing the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage violates their rights to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution. (AP Photo/Courtesy Chris Shelden)

AK Supreme Court considers benefits for same-sex partners

  • Thursday, May 15, 2014 10:14pm
  • News

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Supreme Court is considering whether the partner of a woman killed in 2011 is entitled to survivor benefits from the woman’s employer, given the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

State law allows for widows or widowers to receive survivor benefits if their husband or wife dies in a work-related injury; children are also eligible but if there are no children and is no surviving spouse, benefits can go to other specified family members. Same-sex couples do not receive such benefits because they are not allowed to marry in the state.

The high court heard oral arguments Tuesday.

Deborah Harris’ long-term partner Kerry Fadely was shot to death at the Millennium Hotel in Anchorage. Lamda Legal staff attorney Peter Renn, who represented Harris, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Harris had to move out of the couple’s home shortly after Fadely’s death because she couldn’t afford to make the rental payments on her own.

“Tragedy doesn’t discriminate, and neither should the state,” he said. The state declined to intervene in the case, he added.

Attorney Donald Thomas, who argued on behalf of the Millennium Hotel, which did not provide Harris with survivor benefits, said the Alaska constitution’s ban on same-sex marriage implicitly denies any person who is not validly married the rights and benefits of marriage.

Renn called it discriminatory. While the case does not directly challenge the same-sex marriage ban, the court could take up that issue, Renn said.

“We’ve given the court an option of menus. It could take a smaller bite and decide only the death benefits issue that is raised here for Ms. Harris.

But it could also decide to take a somewhat broader step and declare the marriage amendment itself unconstitutional,” he said.

This is the third case before the high court related to benefits for gay couples. I

n 2005, and again earlier this year, the court ruled that same-sex couples should not be discriminated against. Renn said there is strong precedent for a decision in Harris’ favor.

More in News

A moose is photographed in Kalifornsky, Alaska, in July 2020. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Illegal moose harvest down from past 5 years

The large majority of moose this year were harvested from North and South Kasilof River areas.

Renee Behymer and Katelyn Behymer (right) of Anchorage win this week’s vaccine lottery college scholarship sweepstakes. (Photo provided)
Dillingham and Anchorage residents win 6th vaccine lottery

“Get it done,” one winner said. “Protect us all, protect our elders and our grandchildren.”

Kenai Vice Mayor and council member Bob Molloy (center), council member Jim Glendening (right), council member Victoria Askin (far right), and council member Henry Knackstedt (far left) participate in a work session discussing the overhaul of Kenai election codes on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska.
Kenai City Council gives sendoffs, certifies election results

Both council members-elect — Deborah Sounart and James Baisden — attended Wednesday.

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. (CDC)
COVID is No. 3 underlying cause of death among Alaskans so far this year

The virus accounted for about 7.5% of all underlying causes of death after a review of death certificates.

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, speaks on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives during a floor debate on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021, over an appropriations bill during the Legislature’s third special session of the summer. Multiple organizations reported on Wednesday that Eastman is a lifetime member of the far-right organization the Oath Keepers. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Data leak shows state rep is member of far-right organization

Wasilla area lawmaker said he joined when Oath Keepers first started.

Christine Hutchison, who lives in Kenai and also serves on the Kenai Harbor Commission, testifies in support of the use of alternative treatments for COVID-19 during a meeting of the Kenai City Council on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Medical liberty’ petition brought to Kenai City Council

Some members of the public and Kenai City Council spoke against health mandates and in support of alternative treatments for COVID-19

Amber Kraxberger-Linson, a member of Trout Unlimited and streamwatch coordinator for the Chugach National Forest, works in the field in this undated photo. Kraxberger-Linson will be discussing at the Saturday, Oct. 23 International Fly Fishing Film Festival the organization’s educational programming for next summer. (Photo provided by Trout Unlimited)
Out on the water — and on the screen

Trout Unlimited to host fly fishing film festival Saturday.

This screen capture from surveillance footage released by the Anchorage Police Department shows a masked man vandalizing the Alaska Jewish Museum in Anchorage in May. (Courtesy photo / APD)
Museums statewide condemn antisemitic vandalism

Two incidents, one in May, one in September, have marred the museum this year.

Three speech language pathologists with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District were recognized for excellence during the Alaska Speech-Language-Hearing Association last month. (Kenai Peninsula Borough School District)
Peninsula speech language therapists awarded for excellence

“I was very honored to be recognized by my peers and colleagues,” Evans said in an interview with the Clarion.

Most Read