Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Alaska Supreme Court Okays Partner Benefits

(Link)Despite the statewide ban on same-sex marriage, the state's high court finds that domestic partners of government employees are entitled to the same health, pension and other benefits a spouse enjoys -- and Governor Murkowski is madder than an evangelical wet hen about it.

1 comment:

LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:

By Brendan Coyne
The News Standard

In a momentous win for queer-rights advocates, the Alaskan Supreme Court last week overturned a state law denying same-sex partners of government employees the same benefits bestowed upon married couples. Alaska banned gay marriage by constitutional amendment in 1998, spurring the lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and its Alaska branch.

A unanimous panel of judges found Friday that same-sex domestic partners of government employees are entitled to the same health, pension and other benefits a spouse enjoys. The decision was the latest in a six-year state court battle that the state’s governor is threatening to bring before the US Supreme Court or undo by constitutional amendment.

In a statement, Alaska ACLU Executive Director Michael W. MacLeod-Ball said: "We are so pleased that the Alaska Supreme Court has recognized that same-sex couples form families and make lasting commitments just like different-sex couples, and that it’s unfair to deny lesbian and gay state employees the compensation their straight colleagues receive."

The ruling found that the Marriage Amendment "absolutely precluded" same-sex partners of public employees from access to benefits otherwise offered to spouses. The ruling does not strike down any portion of the amendment, and it asked both parties to offer legal briefs arguing how the issue can be resolved.

In a statement issued directly after the ruling, Governor Frank H. Murkowski suggested that the decision undermines marriage and said he was "outraged by this shameful court ruling."

Though the finding does not touch upon the issue of whether same-sex marriage should be legalized and only addresses access to benefits for unmarried couples, Murkowski called the decision a "clear example of how out of touch the state Supreme Court is with mainstream Alaskans who overwhelmingly believe that marriage is a union between a man and a woman."

In issuing the statement, Murkowski noted that he had already instructed the state Attorney General to begin undoing the court’s decision.