Same-sex marriage in Alaska, Wyoming can proceed after court orders

Story highlights

  • Federal judge rules same-sex marriage is legal in Wyoming
  • Supreme Court rejects Alaska's request to delay enforcement
  • Alaska, Wyoming would become the 30th and 31st states to allow same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage in Alaska can move forward after the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday rejected the state's request to delay enforcement. The one-sentence order from the justices denying a stay means gays and lesbians could soon legally wed.
Less than an hour later, a federal judge in Wyoming did the same in that Western state.
Barring any continued legal intervention, that would make Alaska and Wyoming the 30th and 31st states to allow same-sex marriage, up from 19 states at the beginning of the month.
In Alaska, a federal judge in the state in recent days had ordered gays and lesbians be allowed to apply for marriage licenses and to wed after a normal three-day waiting period. But everything was on hold pending emergency action from the justices.
Some couples had begun applying for marriage licenses as early as Monday and in at least some cases, couples were married when they were granted expedited waivers.
Alaska had requested a stay, saying it needed more time to file more detailed appeals to show its sovereign power to define marriage was being usurped by the courts. Officials, including the governor, had said waiting until the broader legal questions are resolved was best for all Alaskans.
But a number of same-sex couples cited a federal appeals court ruling last week that struck down bans in Nevada and Idaho as unconstitutional. That appeals court's legal jurisdiction also includes Alaska and other Western states.
Wyoming officials have not indicated whether they will appeal the ruling from federal Judge Scott Skavdahl.
The judge said it was preferable the voters or the legislature decide such matters as defining marriage, but concluded "that ship has sailed."
"Binding precedent of [higher courts striking down similar bans] mandate this result, and this court will adhere to its constitutional duties and abide by the rule of law."
A federal appeals court in June became the first such judicial body to strike down same-sex marriage, in Utah and Oklahoma. That court also has jurisdiction over appeals in Wyoming, known as the Equality State. The Supreme Court later allowed those federal rulings to stand.
Gay and lesbian couples could begin marrying on October 23, sooner if the state decides to drop any plans to appeal.
The Wyoming case is Guzzo v. Mead (14-cv-200).
The Alaska case is high court case is Parnell v. Hamby (14A413).