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Court hears appeal in same-sex couples tax case

Posted: November 16, 2012 - 1:06am

ANCHORAGE — The Alaska Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in an appeal from the state over an Alaska taxation policy that treats same-sex couples differently from straight couples.

Last year, a superior court judge ruled same-sex couples are entitled to the same senior citizen and disabled veteran property tax exemptions as married couples, saying a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman doesn’t trump equal protection laws.

Superior Court Judge Frank Pfiffner said in his September 2011 decision that the state’s marital classification violates the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection clause.

The state did not sufficiently distinguish this case from a 2005 Alaska Supreme Court ruling that addressed discrimination based on sexual orientation, Pfiffner said. In that case, brought by the Alaska American Civil Liberties Union, the court said state and municipal same sex employees could not be denied partner benefits given to married couples.

The ACLU also represented three same-sex couples in the taxation case.

In its appeal, the state argued the earlier case has no bearing in the taxation issue and the ACLU, along with Pfiffner, were too narrow in limiting the scope of the marriage amendment approved by voters in 1998.

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