It’s time to move on.
Last week, five couples filed suit in federal court challenging Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage. Adopted by voters in 1998, the constitutional amendment reads: “To be valid or recognized in this State, a marriage may exist only between one man and one woman.”
The couples filing the suit say the ban violates their right to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution. Their action comes as courts around the country are striking down state bans on same-sex marriage in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision finding a key component of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act which denied federal benefits and recognition for same-sex couples to be unconstitutional.
In fact, the Alaska Supreme Court reached a similar conclusion in 2005. The court did not change the state’s definition of marriage, but ruled that while same-sex couples are prohibited from marrying, government can not treat them differently in other ways, in this case, by denying the same benefits available to married public employees. The court ruled that such a stance violates the right to equal protection.
During this year’s legislative session, Sen. Hollis French, and Anchorage Democrat, introduced a bill to put the repeal of the state’s same-sex marriage ban before voters. While the measure did not receive widespread support, he noted at the time that the nation is headed toward same-sex marriage. He cited the string of successful legal challenges to same-sex marriage bans, which have continued since then.
“The legal underpinnings that oppose same-sex marriage have been knocked out — there’s nothing left,” French told reporters in February.
In the nine years since the Alaska Supreme Court’s ruling, the sky hasn’t fallen. The statistics on marriage and divorce aren’t any better or any worse.
In places where same-sex marriage has been legalized, it’s no longer an issue. Attitudes have changed. Recent polls show that a majority of Americans support legalizing same-sex marriage. Life has moved on.
Sooner or later, Alaska will be moving on, too.