ANCHORAGE — The federal appeals court for the West on Wednesday issued a temporary halt to gay marriages in Alaska, just hours before most couples would be allowed to tie the knot.
A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco granted a temporary halt until late Friday morning to allow the state to take its case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The appeals court said barring a stay from the nation’s highest court, gay marriages would resume in Alaska at 11 a.m. Friday.
“Based on what’s happened with Nevada and Idaho, I don’t really see how they are going to get a stay from the Supreme Court,” said Allison Mendel, the lead attorney for five gay couples who sued to overturn Alaska’s ban on gay marriage.
The Supreme Court did issue a temporary stay to Idaho, but that was lifted Wednesday and gay couples began marrying.
“I think it’s probably a disappointment to people who thought they were getting married tomorrow, but I doubt it will be much more than that,” she said.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess on Sunday struck down the ban put in place by Alaska voters in 1998 limiting marriage to one man and one woman, saying it violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
That cleared the way for gay couples to begin applying for marriage licenses Monday morning, triggering a three-day wait period until ceremonies could be held.
However, some judges waived the three-day requirement, and a handful of gay couples have already married. The status of those marriages wasn’t immediately clear.
Gov. Sean Parnell has said it’s a state sovereignty issue, and voters — not the courts — should decide if gay marriage should be allowed.
The state attorney general’s office sought but didn’t receive a stay from Burgess after his decision and went to the 9th Circuit late Tuesday.
“Alaskans should be curious and disappointed why Gov. Parnell and his administration continue to try to throw good money after bad and perpetuate discrimination against Alaskans,” said Joshua Decker, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska.
“When an Alaska constitutional principle has been invalidated by a lower court, the governor believes he is bound by his oath to defend Alaska’s Constitution,” Parnell’s spokeswoman, Sharon Leighow, said in an email to The Associated Press. “That is what he is doing.”
The state planned to file its appeal for a stay with the Supreme Court Wednesday evening.