More than four years after the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, Alaska appears to be engaged in flagrant discrimination against same-sex couples.
On Wednesday, Denali Nicole Smith, a resident of Alaska, filed a lawsuit against the state for denying her benefits because she is married to a woman. Smith’s wife, Miranda Murphy, is an Alaska resident and member of the Armed Forces who is currently stationed in Florida. Under Alaska law, military spouses are eligible for the state’s oil wealth fund, the Permanent Fund Dividend, when their families are stationed out-of-state.
But when Smith applied for the fund in 2019, her application was denied. The state cited Alaska laws that bar the government from recognizing any same-sex marriage or providing any benefits to same-sex couples. A representative from the Permanent Fund Dividend also told Smith that she would’ve received her check “if she were married to a man.”
There’s a problem with this explanation: A federal court permanently blocked Alaska’s same-sex marriage ban in 2014, ruling it unconstitutional. A year later, in Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S.
Supreme Court confirmed that same-sex couples in every state have a fundamental right to marry. And in 2017’s Pavan v. Smith, the court clarified that states must provide same-sex couples with “the constellation of benefits … linked to marriage,” not just a mere marriage license. Alaska is thus defying the law by refusing to recognize Smith and Murphy’s marriage.