A federal judge has struck down Alaska's first-in-the-nation ban on gay marriages. US District Judge Timothy Burgess—who heard arguments Friday afternoon and promised a quick decision—released his 25-page decision yesterday 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," he wrote, declaring the state's same-sex marriage laws unconstitutional because "no state interest provides 'excessively persuasive justification' for the significant infringement of rights that they inflicted upon homosexual individuals."
"This is just an amazing day for Alaska. We're just so fortunate that so many have fought for equality for so long—I mean, decades," says Alaska resident Susan Tow, who married her wife in Maryland last year and was among the plaintiffs fighting to overturn Alaska's 1998 ban on same-sex marriage. The state intends to appeal the ruling. "Although the district court today may have been bound by the recent 9th Circuit panel opinion, the status of that opinion and the law in general in this area is in flux," Gov. Sean Parnell said in a statement. If the state does appeal to the 9th Circuit Court, its chances of winning are slim: The federal appeals court has already ruled against Idaho and Nevada. (Read more Alaska stories.)