United States District Court, D. Alaska
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For Matthew Hamby, a married couple, Christopher Shelden, a married couple, Christina Laborde, a married couple, Susan Tow, a married couple, David Robinson, a married couple, Sean Egan, a married couple, Tracey Wiese, a married couple, Katrina Cortez, a married couple, Courtney Lamb, unmarried persons, Stephanie Pearson, unmarried persons, Plaintiffs: Allison E. Mendel, LEAD ATTORNEY, Mendel & Associates, Anchorage, AK; Caitlin Shortell, Heather Leigh Gardner, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Shortell Gardner, Anchorage, AK.
For Sean C. Parnell, in his official capacity as Governor of Alaska, Michael Geraghty, in his official capacity as Attorney General of the State of Alaska, William J. Streur, in his official capacity as Commissioner of the State of Alaska, Department of Health and Social Services, Phillip Mitchell, in his official capacity as State Registrar and Licensing Officer, Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics, Defendants: Kevin Todd Wakley, LEAD ATTORNEY, State of Alaska, Department of Law (Juneau), Juneau, AK; William E. Milks, LEAD ATTORNEY, Alaska Office of the Attorney General, Juneau, AK.
For American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Anchorage Branch, Amicus: Amanda Goad, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, American Civil Liberties Union, Los Angeles, CA; Joshua A. Decker, Thomas W. Stenson, LEAD ATTORNEYS, ACLU of Alaska Foundation, Anchorage, AK; Susan Orlansky, LEAD ATTORNEY, Susan Orlansky LLC, Anchorage, AK.
TIMOTHY M. BURGESS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
The issue in this case is whether Alaska's constitutional and statutory provisions prohibiting same-sex marriage and the recognition of same-sex marriages lawfully entered in other states violate the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Plaintiffs are five same-sex couples living in Alaska; four of the couples are lawfully married in other states and one couple is unmarried but seeks to marry in Alaska (" Plaintiffs" ). All couples wish to have their commitments legally recognized by the State of Alaska. The Defendants, sued in their official capacities, are: Sean Parnell, the Governor of the State of Alaska; Michael Geraghty, the Attorney General of the State of Alaska; William J. Streur, the Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services; and Phillip Mitchell, the section chief of the Division of Public Health of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services for the Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics (" Defendants" ).
Plaintiffs brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Alaska's laws banning same-sex marriage and refusing to recognize a same-sex marriage lawfully entered in another state violate both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief. The Defendants deny any violation of the Plaintiffs' constitutional rights and therefore seek summary judgment as a matter of law in their favor.
For the reasons that follow, the Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED. The Court finds that Alaska's ban on same-sex marriage and refusal to recognize same-sex marriages lawfully entered in other states is unconstitutional as a deprivation of basic due process and equal protection principles under the
Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of three Alaskan laws: Article 1, Section 25 of the Alaska Constitution and Alaska statutes Section 25.05.011 and Section 25.05.013 (collectively, " the same-sex marriage laws" ). Article 1, Section 25 of the Alaska Constitution, adopted in 1998 and effective in 1999, confines the definition of a valid marriage to couples of the opposite sex:
§ 25. Marriage
To be valid or recognized in this State, a marriage may exist only between one man and one woman.
Alaska statute Section 25.05.011, enacted in 1996, reiterates the definition of marriage as being between male-female couples and prevents the solemnization of any marriage that does not meet that requirement:
§ 25.05.011. Civil Contract
(a) Marriage is a civil contract entered into by one man and one woman that requires both a license and solemnization. The man and the woman must each be at least one of the following:
(1) 18 years of age or older and otherwise capable;
(2) Qualified for a license under Alaska Stat. § 25.05.171; or
(3) A member of the armed forces of the United States while on active duty.
(b) A Person may not be joined in marriage in this state until a license has been obtained for that purpose as provided in this chapter. A marriage performed in this state is not valid without solemnization as provided in this chapter.
Alaska law recognized valid marriages entered in other states. However, in 1996, Section 25.05.013 was written to specifically exclude out-of-state same-sex marriages from that formal recognition. It provides:
§ 25.05.013. Same-sex marriages.
(a) A marriage entered into by persons of the same sex, either under common law or under statute, that is recognized by another state or foreign jurisdiction is void in this state, and contractual rights granted by virtue of the marriage, including its termination, are unenforceable in this state.
(b) A same-sex relationship may not be recognized by the state as being entitled to the benefits of marriage.
In combination, the same-sex marriage laws specifically identify homosexual couples as a group that is (1) not entitled to the benefits and responsibilities conferred by marriage, and (2) excluded from having lawful out-of-state marriages recognized by the State of Alaska. The Plaintiffs argue that the laws' effect stigmatizes same-sex couples and their children by relegating them to a " second class status," as well as " undermines the Plaintiffs' ability to achieve their aspirations, disadvantages them financially, and denies them 'dignity and status of immense import.'"  The Plaintiffs allege that these harms deprive them of their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, which include the right of all people to choose whom to marry
and to be treated equally under the law.
III. LEGAL STANDARD
Summary judgment is appropriate where " there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."  The facts of this case are not in dispute; the Plaintiffs present a facial challenge to the constitutionality of Alaska's laws prohibiting same-sex marriage and the recognition of same-sex marriages lawfully entered in other states. Challenges regarding facial constitutionality implicate only issues of law. If Plaintiffs demonstrate that Alaska's same-sex marriage laws are facially invalid, the Court will strike the laws as unconstitutional.
The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides, in relevant part, that no state shall " deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." " At the heart of [Fourteenth Amendment] liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State."  While the power to define and regulate marriage is allocated to the separate states, state laws still may not infringe upon individual constitutional rights.  Although the freedoms ...