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Alaskan Tribal Council Representing Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes Moves To Recognize Gay Marriage

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The joint council representing the indigenous Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska have unanimously agreed to amend traditional tribal laws in order to recognize same-sex marriages.

“We are pleased to expand our Tribal Court to meet the needs of our tribal citizens,” said Tribal Court Chief Justice Debra O’Gara in a prepared statement. ”Our court can now be utilized by tribal citizens for the happy occasion of marriage without discrimination and regardless of gender.”

The Tribal Council’s new decision will maintain the tradition of requiring that at least one member of a couple be an active and enrolled member of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes.

According to Tribal President Richard Peterson there was no one couple in particular that was agitating for the change in tribal law, but rather the Council’s decision came at a time that felt right and in accordance with the public’s current spirit.


States Defending Gay Marriage Bans Costing Taxpayers Millions In Attorney Fees

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Plaintiffs in successful same-sex marriage lawsuits have been awarded more than $800,000 in attorneys fees' from states that defended the bans, with another $2.6 million in requests pending, according to a new report from The National Law Journal: 

Federal district judges across the country have issued nearly three dozen rulings since late 2013 declaring state same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional. Attorney fee petitions haven't been filed yet in the majority of those cases as they go before circuit courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. The fee awards, agreements and requests to date offer an early snapshot of what these landmark civil rights cases could cost taxpayers. ... 

Plaintiffs who prevail in federal civil rights cases can collect legal fees from the losing side. Congress set up the fee-shifting rule as an incentive for lawyers to take on time-consuming and expensive civil rights litigation, said Deborah Ferguson, lead counsel for the couples who fought Idaho's gay marriage ban.

In Idaho, the plaintiffs' attorneys were awarded a whopping $410,663 — the most in any state thus far. But that hasn't stopped Republican Gov. Butch Otter from continuing his futile defense of the state's marriage ban in court. The other states where plaintiffs' attorneys fees have been awarded or agreed to in same-sex marriage cases are Kentucky, Missouri, Oregon and Virginia. Requests are pending in Alaska, Arkansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin. 

Of course, the plaintiffs' attorneys fees don't include the cost to taxpayers of states paying their lawyers or hiring outside counsel to defend the bans — or, for that matter, lost revenue from wedding-related spending where same-sex marriage is still not legal. 

All told, it seems that defending discrimination isn't cheap, and states that continue to fight same-sex marriage better be prepared to pay up. And the irony is, many of the same folks who advocate lower taxes are the same ones fighting hardest to deprive same-sex couples of the freedom to marry.  


Gay Couple's Home in Alaska Targeted with Sign Reading 'Fags Die'

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A gay couple living in Anchorage, Alaska had their home and car struck by vandals this week.

Adam Jacobson says that he discovered a frozen soupy substance on the couple's mailbox, an eggshell on the front porch, and a few empty jars in their backyard.

But it was what they found on the windshield of their car that really disturbed them, KTVA reports.

Someone had walked up their driveway to place a sign made up of many smaller signs on the vehicle, which had a swastika on it, and said "FAG FREE ZONE", "White Power", "Fags Die, God Laughs, Homosexuality is Sin", "I Hate You, "Two Men Should Friends! Not Butt Buddies!!!", "Homos are possessed by demons", and "God Hates Fag Enablers".

Jacobson and his husband have lived in their current home for four years. He says that friends and members of the community have been supportive since the incident.

He attributes the hate as a reaction to the recent legalization of same-sex marriage in Alaska, and says the haters are "feeling marginalized and feeling like sort of victims of the progressive moment."


Eric Holder Announces Federal Government Will Recognize Gay Marriages in Six More States

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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that the federal government will recognize same-sex married couples in six additional states: Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Last week, Holder made a similar announcement regarding federal recognition of same-sex marriages in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Colorado. 

Via press release:

The Attorney General’s announcement means couples married in these states will now qualify for a range of federal benefits, including those administered by the Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs.

“With each new state where same-sex marriages are legally recognized, our nation moves closer to achieving of full equality for all Americans,” the Attorney General said. “We are acting as quickly as possible with agencies throughout the government to ensure that same-sex married couples in these states receive the fullest array of benefits allowable under federal law.”

In addition, the Attorney General also announced that the Department of Justice has determined it can legally recognize marriages performed in Indiana and Wisconsin this past June. These marriages were performed immediately after federal district courts ruled that those states’ bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, but subsequent developments created confusion about the status of those marriages. Based on the Attorney General’s announcement, however, those couples married during that period will now have their unions recognized by the federal government.


Alaska Files Petition for Full Ninth Circuit Review of Gay Marriage Ruling

Alaska

Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty [pictured below] has filed a petition with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals asking for "en banc" review of a federal judge's ruling overturning the state's gay marriage ban, Alaska Dispatch News reports:

GeraghtyThe filing notes, “En banc hearing is warranted because Alaska’s appeal presents a question of extraordinary importance whose outcome is controlled by erroneous circuit precedent.” The filing, written by Washington, D.C.-based attorney S. Kyle Duncan, asks the justices to look at the district court decision separately from the 9th Circuit decision overturning marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada.

Attorneys have noted en banc review is difficult to get. Just asking for the review does not mean it is granted, since a majority of the 9th Circuit's 29 judges must agree just to hear the case. From there, a panel of 11 judges, instead of the typical three, decides the matter.

The Washington Blade adds:

Doug NeJaime, a law professor at University of California, Irvine, said he doesn’t think the full Ninth Circuit will grant review of the marriage cases in the first place.

“Of course, the first question is whether en banc review is granted,” NeJaime said. “Given the Supreme Court’s action a couple weeks ago, there may not be many judges that want to spend resources reviewing the panel decision. And then there is certainly reason, given that Perry was also decided in the Ninth Circuit, to think a different result is unlikely.”

Earlier this week, Idaho Governor Butch Otter filed a similar petition with the Ninth Circuit seeking "en banc" review of the case challenging the state's gay marriage ban. Marriage equality has already begun in both states.

Read the Alaska petition below, via Equality Case Files:


Alaska Congressman Makes 'Hurtful' Remarks In Wake Of Teen's Suicide, Says Gay Marriage Is 'Bullshazzle'

YoungAlaska's lone congressman Don Young, the House of Representatives' longest serving Republican member, made comments recently at a Wasilla, Alaska high school that have been labeled 'hurtful' by the school's principal Amy Spargo. Alaska Dispatch News reports that many present at the assembly where Young spoke to students found Young's comments on suicide and gay marriage to be both offensive and disrespectful.

Young was asked by teacher Carl Swick about Alaska's high rates of suicide and domestic violence and what particularly he is doing to curb these trends. Young began talking about the role of alcohol and depression in these instances and then, according to witnesses, commented that suicide shows a lack of support from friends and family:

"When I heard 'a lack of support from family' and I heard 'a lack of support from friends,' I felt the oxygen go out of the room, but I gasped as well," Spargo said. "It just isn't true in these situations. It's just such a hurtful thing to say." 

Both Spargo and Swick say a friend of the victim, moved by emotion, shouted at Young, “He had friends. He had support.”

“The kid said, ‘It’s depression -- you know, a mental illness,' ” Spargo recalled. As she remembers, Young replied, “ ‘Well, what, do you just go to the doctor and get diagnosed with suicide?’ ”

At some point during the exchange, several school staffers say, the congressman also used either the words "---hole” or “smartass.” 

Young’s office issued a statement about his conduct Tuesday evening in response to a request from Alaska Dispatch News. 

“Congressman Young was very serious and forthright when discussing the issue of suicide, in part because of the high number of tragedies that affect Alaskan youth. He discussed what he believes are leading causes of youth suicide in our state and shared some suggestions for helping family members and friends who are dealing with suicidal thoughts,” spokesman Matt Shuckerow wrote in an email. “In no way did Congressman Young mean to upset anyone with his well-intentioned message. In light of the tragic events affecting the Wasilla High School community, he should have taken a much more sensitive approach.”

Later in the assembly, student Zachary Grier asked Young about his position on same-sex marriage:

“I asked why is it so bad in your eyes?” Grier said.

As Spargo described it, Young answered, “You can’t have marriage with two men. What do you get with two bulls?”

Witnesses say Young then said something about a lot of "bullshazzle" or some word resembling the more familiar obscenity.

“At that point I was heading for the microphone," the principal said. "It was time to be done.” The hour was up, she said, and the tone of the discussion was getting argumentative.

Afterwards, Young spoke with Spargo on his way out and, according to Spargo, said of the student who spoke up about their friend who had recently comitted suicide, "That boy needs to learn some respect."


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