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Alaska judge allows tax exemption for same-sex couples

Alaska Superior Court Judge Frank Pfiffner on Friday ruled it unconstitutional [opinion, PDF] for Alaska to deny same-sex couples the senior citizen and disabled veteran property tax exemptions given to married couples. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Alaska [advocacy websites] challenged [complaint, PDF] the state's tax exemption law on behalf of three same-sex couples in Anchorage who were denied tax benefits [AP report] for lacking marital status. The complaint alleged that Alaska's Constitution forbids discrimination against same-sex domestic partners in qualifications for tax exemptions. The complaint further alleged that denying tax exemptions to same-sex couples infringed on the plaintiffs' natural right to liberty, equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law, as well as the right to be free from sex discrimination, and the right to privacy. Pfiffner found that the denial violates the equal protection clause of the Alaska Constitution [text].

Rights for same-sex couples continue to be debated across the US. Last week, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a motion to dismiss [JURIST report] a lawsuit challenging the validity of the state's newly passed Marriage Equality Act [JURIST report]. Also last week, the North Carolina Legislature approved putting a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage [JURIST report] on a statewide ballot to be voted on in May. Earlier this month, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that House Bill 2013, a law rescinding health benefits for same-sex couples in the public sector, is in violation of the equal protection clause of the US Constitution.

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