State: About 285 same-sex couples wed in Alaska in past year

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess  found the gay-marriage ban violated the equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess found the gay-marriage ban violated the equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess  found the gay-marriage ban violated the equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess found the gay-marriage ban violated the equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — About 285 same-sex couples have married in Alaska in the year since a federal judge struck down the state’s ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional, according to the state health department.

Monday marked the one-year anniversary of the decision striking down a 1998 voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. Except for a brief period last October, during which the state unsuccessfully petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene, couples have been able to apply for marriage licenses since.

In June this year, following litigation across the country, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples nationwide have the right to marry.

Since Oct. 12, 2014, 5,589 total marriages have been registered in Alaska, including 284 same-sex marriages, the department said Monday in response to queries from The Associated Press. Registered marriages refer to couples who have married and turned in completed marriage licenses.

Matthew Hamby, a plaintiff in the Alaska case, called it gratifying “to have played a small role in standing up and saying, We want to be treated equally, just like our straight counterparts.” Hamby and his husband, Christopher Shelden, were among five couples who sued last year, challenging the constitutionality of Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage. Four of the five couples, including Hamby and Shelden, had been married outside the state. The fifth couple was unmarried at the time.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess, in striking down the ban, said refusing the rights and responsibilities afforded by legal marriage “sends the public a government-sponsored message that same-sex couples and their familial relationships do not warrant the status, benefits, and dignity given to couples of the opposite sex.” He found the gay-marriage ban violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

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