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Five Couples File Suit Challenging Alaska's Gay Marriage Ban

Five couples have filed suit challenging Alaska's ban on gay marriage, the Alaska Dispatch reports:

AlaskaThe lawsuit, Hamby v. Parnell, filed on behalf of Anchorage resident Matthew Hamby, his partner, and four other couples, is considered the first challenge of the Alaska constitutional amendment since courts around the nation have started to strike down marriage bans, according to attorney Caitlin Shortell.

Shortell is one of three attorneys representing the plaintiffs. The lawsuit challenges the Alaska constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, arguing that it violates the couples' due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Alaska voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1998 that said marriage could only exist between a man and woman.

...Allison Mendel, who is also representing the plaintiffs, said there was no way she could not get involved with a suit like this. She ran the opposition campaign to the constitutional amendment in 1998 and has brought multiple suits on behalf of same-sex couples over the years.

She expects the state to defend the ban, though the attorneys are committed through the entire process.

The suit was filed in Anchorage, the AP reports:

The plaintiffs are Matthew Hamby and Christopher Shelden; Christina LaBorde and Susan Tow; Sean Egan and David Robinson; Tracey Wiese and Katrina Cortez; and Courtney Lamb and Stephanie Pearson. Lamb and Pearson are unmarried.

Hamby, in a statement, said he and his husband — who, according to the lawsuit were married in Canada in 2008 and renewed their vows in Utah last year — are taking a stand "because marriage should be available to all loving couples. It's important to us that our family is recognized by the State of Alaska and that we have the same rights and privileges as others."


Monday Speed Read: Taxes, Alaska, Texas, Project One America, Boy Scouts, Asian Commission

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

ALASKA COURT TAX VICTORY: Aclu_alaska

In a partial victory, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled unanimously Friday that a tax break given to seniors and people with disabilities “potentially treats same-sex couples less favorably than it treats opposite-sex couples.” The ACLU-led case, State v. Schmidt, was appealed to the high court by the state and Anchorage on behalf of three same-sex couples. The court ruled that the denial of the partial property tax exemption to same-sex couples who cannot marry violates the equal protection guarantee of the state constitution. (The ruling did not include the third couple because neither partner formally owned the property.) In its decision, the court said the state’s existing ban on same-sex marriages does not prohibit or permit the state to offer or deny a benefit it grants to married couples to same-sex couples “who demonstrate they are similarly situated to married couples.” Committed same-sex couples who want to marry,” said the decision, “are similarly situated to opposite-sex couples who want to marry.”

NellermoeDIVORCE DELAYED:

A Texas appeals court on Thursday granted a request to stay a state district judge’s ruling that the state “cannot discriminate against same-sex couples” and that the state’s ban against allowing same-sex couples to marry violates the child’s right to equal protection of the law. The Austin Statesman reports that the appeals court in San Antonio granted state Attorney General Greg Abbott’s request for an emergency stay of the ruling. Abbott said Judge Barbara Nellermoe’s ruling in the lesbian divorce and custody case last Tuesday could create “legal chaos.” The appeals court has set a May 5 deadline for briefs in the appeal.

PoaSHORING UP THE SOUTH:

The Human Rights Campaign Saturday announced a three-year, $8.5 million project to help improve legal protections for LGBT people living in three southern states. The campaign, called Project One America, will also devote a staff of 20 people concentrating on Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi –the states where, says an HRC press release, “there are no non-discrimination protections for LGBT people at the state or local level in employment, housing or public accommodations, and where each state’s constitution expressly prohibits marriage equality.” HRC says it has 57,000 members in these three states.

BsaBOY SCOUT BELLY FLOP:

Legal counsel for the Louisville Metro Council advised the local Boy Scouts troop last week that the city could not pay for the group to use a local pool because the Boy Scouts’ policy exhibits “intentional discrimination.” The Louisville Courier-Journal reported April 25 that at least $45,000 in city money was appropriated for scout activities last year. It said the troop’s assistant scoutmaster threatened to end scout volunteer work at local park clean-ups in retaliation it the city doesn’t provide the financial assistance.

TWO NAMED TO ASIAN COMMISSION:

Two of the 14 newly named members of President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are openly gay. One is the head of Asia Services in Action, Inc., Michael Byun, of Ohio; the other is actor Maulik Pancholy, best known for is secondary roles on the hit series 30 Rock and Weeds.

© copyright 2014 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


Alaska Senate Minority Leader Hollis French Introduces Legislation to Repeal State's Gay Marriage Ban

Alaska's Senate Minority Leader Hollis French (D-Anchorage) has introduced legislation that would strike down the state's ban on same-sex marriage, the AP reports:

FrenchIn a statement, French said passage of his constitutional amendment would let Alaska voters "remove this blot on our state constitution."

The proposal was introduced Monday.

To pass, the proposal would need a two-thirds vote in each the Alaska Senate and the House before it could qualify for the ballot...French told reporters he has had some casual conversations with other legislators about his proposal but "felt more morally compelled to file it than out of any sort of a vote-counting exercise." He later called it a civil rights issue.

It's unclear what kind of chances French's proposal has of advancing. Republicans currently control both chambers of the state’s legislature.

A recent PPP poll showed that a majority in Alaska now support same-sex marriage, a 9 point shift over the last year.

The Alaska Senate Democrats posted Hollis's full statement:

“I believe that we as a nation have been engaged in, and are in the middle of, a long march towards marriage equality. The reason is that we all have, in the bottom of our souls, a deep belief in the four cardinal American virtues: freedom, justice, liberty, and equality,” stated Senator French.

If passed by the legislature, Senator French’s resolution would put the constitutional question before the Alaskan voters this fall.

“There are rapid changes happening in the legal landscape on this issue. Last year the US Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Windsor that the Defense of Marriage Act’s ban on same-sex marriages was invalid as to lawfully married same-sex couples. Since then a series of court decisions in Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia have used the legal reasoning in Winsdor to invalidate state bans on same-sex marriage. The day is not far off when the US Supreme Court rules that state prohibitions on same-sex marriage are inconsistent with freedom, justice, liberty, and equality. Passage of this resolution will allow Alaskan voters to remove this blot on our state constitution through our own action,” said Senator French.


Alaska Senate Leader on Gay Marriage: 'If You Can't See It Coming, Your Eyes Are Closed'

On Thursday, Alaska Senate Minority Leader Hollis French (D-Anchorage) spoke favorably of the inevitability of nationwide marriage equality, saying “If you can’t see it coming, your eyes are closed.”  

Hollis frenchThe AP reports:

French said he believed the U.S. Supreme Court would ultimately take up the issue and find denying an adult the right to marry whomever he or she wants violates the equal protection clause.

He called it an exciting legal development.

Although Alaska voters in 1998 approved a state constitutional amendment defining marriage between a man and a woman, significant pro-equality progress has been made since that time. Last year, both U.S. Senators from Alaska, Democrat Mark Begich and Republican Lisa Murkowski came out in support of marriage equality.

Additionally, a recent poll out by the Freedom to Marry shows voters in Alaska and other western states where same-sex marriage continues to be illegal now favor marriage equality by a 19-point-margin (53% favor, 34% oppose).


News: Anchorage, AT&T, Transgender Student, Sarah Palin

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Elizabeth Berkley to dance to "I'm So Excited" on Dancing With The Stars

Bag6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Man retrieves his luggage at baggage claim only to find it plastered with the words "I am gay." Airline claims they "are taking this matter very seriously."

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b New poll: One in six LGBT Brits have been the victim of a hate crime.

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Meg Ryan to star in television series.

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Madonna banned from movie theater for texting on her Blackberry.

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Michael Douglas confesses to lying about the type of cancer he was diagnosed with in 2010: "But the surgeon said, 'Let's just say it's throat cancer.' I said 'OK, you don't want to say it's tongue cancer?' I said 'Why's that?' and he said, 'Well, if you really want to know why, if we do have to have surgery it's not going to be pretty. You'll lose part of you jaw and your tongue and all of that stuff.' So I said, 'OK sure.'"

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Will Young hopes to stop school kids from using the word "gay" as a slur.

Utah6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Transgender University of Northern Iowa student crowned homecoming queen.

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Anchorage Chamber of Commerce hopes to give LGBT community support from local businesses: "'The social debates are happening outside of what we're doing,' said Andrew Halcro, the chamber president. 'This is really focusing on the economy and the economic benefits of inclusivity.'"

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Lesbian couple in Utah claims discrimination from manager at AT&T store. The company is investigating the charges.

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz, who initially supported the government shutdown, are now protesting it in Washington, DC.

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Palin also appeared in New Jersey to support Cory Booker Senate rival, Steve Lonegan.

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Judge: Ban on gay men giving blood in Northern Ireland is irrational.


Alaska State Personnel Board Votes to Include Same-Sex Partners as 'Family'

Back in August we reported that the Alaska Division of Personnel and Labor Relations was considering changing the definition of "family" to include same-sex partners.

AlaskaYesterday, it did, the AP reports:

The board adopted new wording in regulations that allows state employees to take leave due to a serious health condition involving a same-sex partner and include same-sex partners in the definition of immediate family for that purpose.

To be eligible, the rules state the same-sex partners must provide proof that they meet five of eight criteria, including such things as a joint mortgage or rental agreement, joint ownership of a vehicle or being named as the primary beneficiary in a partner's will.

Same-sex marriage is barred under Alaska's constitution. But the Alaska Supreme Court in 2005 found it is unconstitutional to offer valuable benefits to the spouses of public employees but not to same-sex domestic partners.

The language on leaves was adopted unanimously but the board voted 2-1 on the definition of 'family', with one member opposing.

More here.


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