JUNEAU — Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty said he will continue to defend the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, even as federal courts around the country strike down similar bans.
Geraghty said he will not make his decisions based on federal district court decisions that still must be reviewed by appellate courts and perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court, which he expects will ultimately weigh in.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Geraghty said his personal feelings on the issue are immaterial. He said he has sworn an oath to uphold the constitution and the law of the land.
Alaska voters in 1998 approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
“Would everybody vote the same way today? Who knows? But it’s on the books,” he said, adding later: “Eventually, as I said, one day there will be guidance. I’m sure one day there will be a decision one way or the other. And when that happens, obviously we will comply with the decision.”
Joshua Decker, interim director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, said Wednesday that he was disappointed with Geraghty’s position. He said citizens, judges and legislatures “are all recognizing that these types of bans are both un-American and unconstitutional. We would hope that our elected officials would recognize that and recognize that that type of discrimination does not have a place up here in Alaska.”
In the past year, the U.S. Supreme Court 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 have struck down state constitutional bans in Utah, Oklahoma and just last week in Virginia, though appeals are pending or expected. And states like Illinois and Hawaii have legalized same-sex marriage.
Alaska joined with 10 other states last month — including Utah and Oklahoma — in filing a friend of the court brief supporting the governor and attorney general of Nevada in defense of that state’s same-sex marriage ban. In that filing, they argue that marriage between a man and a woman “not only reflects and maintains deep-rooted traditions of our Nation, but also furthers the public policy of encouraging biological parents to stay together for the sake of the children produced by their sexual union.”
“In contrast, redefining marriage as nothing more than societal validation of personal bonds of affection leads not to the courageous elimination of irrational, invidious treatment, but instead to the tragic deconstruction of civil marriage and its subsequent reconstruction as a glorification of the adult self,” the filing states. “And unlike the goal of encouraging responsible procreation that underlies traditional marriage, the mere objective of self-validation that inspires same-sex marriage lacks principled limits.
“If public affirmation of anyone and everyone’s personal love and commitment is the single purpose of civil marriage, a limitless number of rights claims could be set up that evacuate the term ‘marriage’ of any meaning,” the filing states.
Last week, the Nevada governor and attorney general said they would not defend their state’s ban when it goes before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Geraghty said he wasn’t sure what the next step would be in that case — one of several in which the state has filed friend of the court briefs.