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U.S. Supreme Court allows same-sex marriages to go forward in Alaska

Vincent Huang

Vincent Huang

Updated: 3:10 p.m. AKDT

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — After a short hiatus, gay marriage once again became legal in the state of Alaska when the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday declined to intervene.

The state had asked the nation’s highest court to put a halt to marriages while it appealed a decision Sunday from a lower-court judge that legalized gay unions in the nation’s northernmost state.

“The application for stay presented to Justice (Anthony) Kennedy and by him referred to the Court is denied,” the one-sentence ruling from the court said.

The denial means gay couples in Alaska who have licenses could start getting married.

Friday was a state holiday in Alaska, and offices where couples could get licenses weren’t open, but will issue licenses again Monday, Sharon Leighow, a spokeswoman for Gov. Sean Parnell, said in an email to The Associated Press.

Messages left for attorneys on both sides weren’t immediately returned.

The denial by the court came the same day a district court in Arizona struck down that state’s constitutional ban and Arizona’s conservative attorney general announced state wouldn’t challenge that judge’s ruling. The American Civil Liberties Union called on Alaska Republican Gov. Sean Parnell to follow suit.

“While we’re thrilled that equal marriage will go forward in Alaska, we are disappointed that Gov. Parnell has chosen to waste more taxpayers dollars and hope he will listen to the Supreme Court and stop defending this indefensible ban,” said Joshua Decker, executive director of the ACLU of Alaska.

Alaska was among the first states where residents approved constitutional prohibitions to same-sex marriage.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess on Sunday struck down the ban put in place by Alaska voters in 1998 limiting marriage to one man and one woman. He ruled in the case brought by five gay couples, who said the ban violated the due-process and equal-protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Burgess’ ruling cleared the way for gay couples to begin applying for marriage licenses Monday morning, triggering a three-day wait period until ceremonies could be held.

However, some judges waived the three-day requirement, and a handful of gay couples had already married.

The state filed notice of appeal to 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and sought a stay while the appeal is being considered. The federal appeals court on Wednesday only issued a stay until 11 a.m. AKDT Friday to give the state time to petition the high court.

Leighow said Parnell swore to uphold the Alaska Constitution when he took office.

“Today’s denial of the stay doesn’t change that, and the state will continue with this appeal to the 9th Circuit,” she said.

Leighow said the state will comply with Burgess’ ruling but will file a request for the full 9th Circuit Court to hear its appeal.

Developing story. This report will be updated.

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