Same-sex couples apply for marriage licenses, State asks for a stay

After a federal judge decided Sunday that Alaska’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional, the State of Alaska started accepting applications for gay marriages this morning. But the state’s Attorney General is asking for a stay on that legal decision, which would put a hold on actually issuing any licenses.

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Courtney Lamb and Stephanie Pearson were part of the lawsuit seeking to overturn the gay marriage ban. They were first in line in Anchorage to apply for a license.

“Do you have an application?” the clerk inquired.

“Yes!” they replied in unison then started to process their paperwork.

Between giggles they took the oath and planned to pick up their license as soon as they could after the state’s mandatory three-day waiting period. That would be 8 am on Thursday morning.

Lamb and Pearson applying to marry. Hillman/KSKA
Lamb and Pearson applying to marry. Hillman/KSKA

“What time is your wedding schedule?” I asked.

“8:30!”

Lamb and Pearson were joined at the front of the line by Ann Marie Garber and her fiance.

“It feels very surreal. I’ve been out since I was 17 and I had no idea this day would come in my life time.”

But whether or not the day actually comes depends on the state’s appeal for a stay. Attorney General Michael Geraghty says the ban should not be lifted yet because the law is in a state of flux.

“The cases around the country have gone off in different tangents in terms of finding these laws unconstitutional. It’s a bit of a smorgasbord, and that’s why I think ultimately the US Supreme Court is going to have to accept a case and decide this issue once and for all.”

The motion says a stay is in order “to avoid chaos in the administration of Alaska’s marriage laws pending ultimate resolution of this fundamental issue.”

Geraghty says the state wants a larger panel of 9th Circuit judges to hear the case. He says they’re hopeful because some judges in other circuits have stated they interpret same-sex marriage bans as constitutional.

Carl Tobias is a professor of constitutional law at the University of Richmond and has been closely following same-sex marriage cases around the country. He says he doesn’t think the state has any new arguments to make.

“So I think it’s very much a long shot in terms of what is being argued in the stay. And I don’t think it reflects the reality on the ground from what we know right now.”

Christopher Ruff married his husband in California years ago and applied for an Alaska marriage license this morning. He says the governor’s appeal reflects badly on the state.

“It’s a little embarrassing on the state to have them codify discrimination in law and try and hold it. And I’m embarrassed with Parnell right now still continuing to say they want to hold it after the courts have said straight out they are degrading and discriminating. I forget the exact words but they were pretty harsh.”

Ruff says they applied for a license immediately because they are afraid the state will take away their rights again.

Judge Timothy Burgess will rule on the state’s request. If the stay is denied then licenses could be issued on Thursday.