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Gay Marriage Updates: Alaska, Arizona, and Montana

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on October 13, 2014 12:35 PM

Alaska has become the latest state to have its gay marriage ban overturned by a federal judge, following a major decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On Sunday, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess found that Alaska's gay marriage ban violated the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, and ordered all state agents to not enforce the law. CNN reports that Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell announced his intention to appeal the court's ruling, citing his "duty to defend and uphold the law and the Alaska Constitution."

What is the state of gay marriage now?

Alaska, Idaho, and Nevada

Alaska, Idaho, and Nevada are all under the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit, which means they were all bound by the Ninth Circuit's decision to strike down Idaho and Nevada's gay marriage bans. The decision was of particular importance because the Ninth Circuit also made the somewhat unique statement that laws which discriminate against gays and lesbians must be subjected to a higher level of scrutiny.

After a somewhat confusing couple of days, the Supreme Court rejected a request by Idaho to put a hold on gay marriages, which became a reality on Friday. Nevada began issuing marriage licenses on Thursday. While these states were part of a direct appeal to the Ninth Circuit, Alaska's gay marriage ruling was only at the district court level.

Judge Burgess, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska, echoed many of the sentiments of the appellate judges in striking down two similar state laws, which is why an appeal to the Ninth Circuit by Alaska doesn't seem likely to succeed. Unless Judge Burgess' ruling is stayed by either the Ninth Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court, gay marriage may be legal in Alaska.

Arizona and Montana

There are two remaining states in the Ninth Circuit which have not legalized gay marriage: Arizona and Montana. The Republic reports that a federal judge has given parties in Arizona's pending gay marriage cases until Thursday (October 16) to present arguments why the recent Ninth Circuit ruling doesn't apply to their cases. If U.S. District Judge John Sedwick believes the Ninth Circuit case applies in Arizona, he may strike down Arizona's gay marriage ban as well.

In Montana, Great Fall's KRTV reports that the ACLU has vowed to use the Ninth Circuit's ruling to make Montana "a marriage equality state."

CNN reports that as of Monday, at least 27 states now allow same-sex marriage.

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