LGBT rights in Alaska

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LGBT rights in Alaska
Alaska (USA)
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1980
Gender identity/expression Altering sex on birth certificate requires SRS
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation protections in state employment
Family rights
Recognition of
State employees only
Alaska Ballot Measure 2 limits marriage to man/woman
Adoption No restrictions

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of Alaska face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Same-sex couples and families headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for all the protections available to opposite-sex married couples.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Alaska repealed its law that criminalized same-sex sexual activity in 1980.[1]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Alaska does not permit the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The state forbids, both by statute and in its constitution, the recognition of same-sex marriages and other form of same-sex partnership solemnized in other jurisdictions. In 1996, the Alaska state legislature passed a ban on same-sex marriage. On May 6, 1996, Governor Tony Knowles did not sign the bill into law, but did not veto it, which allowed the bill to go into effect.[2] In 1998, the Alaska state legislator passed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The constitutional amendment defining marriage was approved in a voter referendum on November 3, 1998.[3]

The City and Borough of Juneau issues domestic partnership benefits to same-sex couples.[4]

On July 25, 2014, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that denying survivor benefits to a deceased person's same-sex partner violated the survivor's right to equal protection.[5]

Both U.S Senators from Alaska, Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, and Mark Begich, a Democrat, support same-sex marriage.[6][7]

State employee benefits[edit]

On October 28, 2005, the Supreme Court of Alaska ruled, in Alaska Civil Liberties Union v. State, that state and local government programs violated the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection provision by extending benefits to public employees’ spouses but denying benefits to employees’ domestic partners. The court held the programs unconstitutional because they denied benefits to people who are precluded, under Alaska’s marriage laws, from becoming eligible to receive them.[8]

On November 17, 2006, the Alaska House voted 24-10 in favor of legislation ordering a non-binding referendum for a constitutional amendment to deny benefits to the same-sex partners of state employees. On November 20, the Alaska Senate passed the bill in a 12-3 vote. On December 20, Governor Sarah Palin signed it.[9][10] On April 3, 2007, Alaska voters, with 52.8% in favor and 48.8% opposed, directed the legislature to put a constitutional amendment denying benefits to the same-sex partners of state employees to the voters. A bill to place such an amendment on the ballot in November 2008 stalled in the state legislature.[11]

Since January 1, 2007, Alaska has provided some limited benefits to the same-sex partners of state employees.[12]

Hamby v. Parnell[edit]

On May 12, 2014, five same-sex couples filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Anchorage challenging the state's same-sex marriage ban.[13] The suit named Governor Sean Parnell as the primary defendant.[14] The state's brief, filed on June 19, said that the questions the plaintiffs raised were political, not legal. It said that under the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution "Alaska has the right as a sovereign state to define and regulate marriage" and "Alaska voters had a fundamental right to decide the important public policy issue of whether to alter the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman."[15] District Court Judge Timothy Burgess scheduled oral argument for October 10.[16]

Adoption and parenting[edit]

Alaska permits adoption by an unmarried adult without regard to sexual orientation. Lower state courts have allowed some second parent adoptions by gay and lesbian couples, though state court has ruled in a case where such an adoption is disputed.[17]

Discrimination protection[edit]

An executive order prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in state employment since 2002. There is no provision for gender identity in any law.[18]

Public opinion[edit]

A February 2013 Public Policy Polling survey found that 43% of Alaska voters supported same-sex marriage, while 51% were opposed to the idea. 6% were not sure.[19]

A July 2013 Public Policy Polling survey found that 45% of Alaska voters supported same-sex marriage, while 48% were opposed to the idea. 6% were not sure.[20]

A January/February 2014 Public Policy Polling survey found that 47% of Alaska voters supported same-sex marriage, while 46% were opposed to the idea. 7% were not sure.[21]

A July/August 2014 Public Policy Polling survey found that 49% of Alaska voters supported same-sex marriage, while 45% did not and 6% were not sure.[22]

Hate crime laws[edit]

State law does not address hate crimes based on gender identity or sexual orientation.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Alaska Sodomy Law". March 12, 2007. Retrieved November 2, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Same-sex marriages under fire in House". May 8, 1996. Retrieved June 29, 2014. 
  3. ^ Clarkson, Kevin, Coolidge, David, & Duncan, William (1999). "The Alaska Marriage Amendment: The People's Choice On The Last Frontier". Alaska Law Review (Duke University School of Law) 16 (2): 213–268. Retrieved May 15, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Governments Offering Benefits". Retrieved June 29, 2014. 
  5. ^ Bohrer, Becky (July 25, 2014). "Court rejects benefit denial in same-sex case". Miami Herald. Retrieved July 25, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Senator Lisa Murkowski Endorses Marriage Equality" (Press release). Human Rights Campaign. June 19, 2013. Retrieved June 19, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Your Elected Officials". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved August 3, 2012. "Agrees with the following: Gay and lesbian couples should not be denied the ability to pledge their love and commitment through the civil institution of marriage. I believe that two committed adults of the same sex should be able to receive a government-issued marriage license, while religious institutions retain their right to determine which marriages they will perform." 
  8. ^ "State Courts". Retrieved June 29, 2014. 
  9. ^ McAllister, Bill (December 20, 2006). "Gay partners of state employees win benefits". KTUU News (KTUU-TV). Retrieved December 27, 2007. 
  10. ^ "HB4002)". Retrieved June 29, 2014. 
  11. ^ Sutton, Anne (May 8, 2007). "Same-sex benefits bill stalls". Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved September 2, 2008. 
  12. ^ "New Employees". Retrieved November 2, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Couples Challenging Alaska Gay-Marriage Ban". ABC News. May 13, 2014. Retrieved May 13, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Couples file suit to overturn Alaska's ban on same-sex marriage". Anchorage Daily News. May 12, 2014. Retrieved May 13, 2014. 
  15. ^ Rosen, Yereth (June 19, 2014). "Alaska's same-sex marriage ban doesn't violate couples' rights". Alaska Dispatch News. Retrieved July 25, 2014. 
  16. ^ "Arguments Set in Challenge to Alaska's Gay Marriage Ban". Edge, New York. Associated Press. July 24, 2014. Retrieved July 25, 2014. 
  17. ^ Human Rights Campaign: Alaska Adoption Law, accessed May 15, 2011
  18. ^ Human Rights Campaign: Alaska Non-Discrimination Law, accessed May 15, 2011
  19. ^ "Clinton Is Competitive In Alaska". Public Policy Polling. Retrieved August 2, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Murkowski approval down but gay marriage favor up" (PDF). Retrieved November 2, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Palin trails Clinton in Alaska; State Supports Gay Marriage For First Time" (PDF). February 5, 2014. Retrieved February 5, 2014. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ Human Rights Campaign: Alaska Hate Crimes Law, accessed May 15, 2011

External links[edit]