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Federal Judge Strikes Down Alaska's Gay Marriage Ban

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A federal judge on Sunday struck down Alaska's first-in-the-nation ban on gay marriages, the latest court decision in a busy week for the issue across the country. It wasn't immediately clear when marriage licenses would be issued to same-sex couples in the state, however the state does have a three-day waiting period between applications and marriage ceremonies.

Five gay couples had asked the state of Alaska to overturn a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1998 that defined marriage as being between one man and one woman.

The lawsuit filed in May sought to bar enforcement of Alaska's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. It also called for barring enforcement of any state laws that refuse to recognize gay marriages legally performed in other states or countries or that prevent unmarried gay couples from marrying.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess heard arguments Friday afternoon and promised a quick decision. He released his 25-page decision Sunday afternoon.

"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," Burgess wrote.

If the state does appeal to the 9th Circuit Court, chances of winning were slim since the federal appeals court already has ruled against Idaho and Nevada, which made similar arguments.

Alaska voters in 1998 approved a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. But in the past year, the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that prevented legally married same-sex couples from receiving a range of federal benefits. Federal courts also have since struck down state constitutional bans in a number of states.

IN-DEPTH

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