ALASKA CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION v. STATE
122 P.3d 781 (2005)
ALASKA CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION, Dan Carter and Al Incontro, Lin Davis and Maureen Longworth, Shirley Dean and Carla Timpone, Darla Madden and Karen Wood, Aimee Olejasz and Fabienne Peter-Contesse, Karen Sturnick and Elizabeth Andrews, Theresa Tavel and Karen Walter, Corin Whittemore and Gani Ruthellen, and Estra Bensussen and Carol Rose Gackowski, Appellants,
STATE of Alaska and Municipality of Anchorage, Appellees.
Supreme Court of Alaska.
October 28, 2005.
Allison E. Mendel, Mendel & Associates, Anchorage, Kenneth Y. Choe, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, New York City, New York, and Tobias B. Wolff, Davis, California, for Appellants.
John B. Gaguine, Assistant Attorney General, and Bruce M. Botelho, Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellee State of Alaska.
Neil T. O'Donnell, Atkinson, Conway & Gagnon, Anchorage, for Appellee Municipality of Anchorage.
James M. Gorski, Hughes, Thorsness, Gantz, Powell, Huddleston & Bauman LLC, Anchorage, for Amicus Curiae The Alaska Catholic Conference.
Rebecca L. Maxey, Law Offices of Rebecca L. Maxey, L.L.C., Anchorage, and Jennifer Middleton, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., New York City, New York, for Amicus Curiae Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.
Kevin G. Clarkson, Brena, Bell & Clarkson, P.C., Anchorage, for Amici Curiae North Star Civil Rights Defense Fund, Inc. and Marriage Law Project.
Before: FABE, Chief Justice, MATTHEWS, EASTAUGH, BRYNER, and CARPENETI, Justices.
The State of Alaska and the Municipality of Anchorage offer valuable benefits to their employees' spouses that they do not offer to their unmarried employees' domestic partners. Essentially all opposite-sex adult couples may marry and thus become eligible for these benefits. But no same-sex couple can ever become eligible for these benefits because same-sex couples may not marry in Alaska.1 The spousal limitations in the benefits programs therefore affect public employees with same-sex domestic partners differently than public employees who are married. This case requires us to determine if it is reasonable to pay public employees who are in committed domestic relationships with same-sex partners less in terms of employee benefits than their co-workers who are married. In making this determination, we must decide whether the spousal limitations in the benefits programs violate the rights of public employees with same-sex domestic partners to "equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law."2 The Alaska Constitution dictates the answer to that constitutional question. Irrelevant to our analysis must be personal, moral, or religious beliefs — held deeply by many — about whether persons should enter into intimate same-sex relationships or whether same-sex domestic partners should be permitted to marry. It is the duty of courts "to define the liberty of all, not to mandate [their] own moral code."3 Our duty here is to decide whether the eligibility restrictions satisfy established standards for resolving equal protection challenges to governmental action.
We do not need to decide whether heightened scrutiny should be applied here because the benefits programs cannot withstand minimum scrutiny. Although the governmental objectives are presumably legitimate, the difference in treatment is not substantially related to those objectives. We accordingly hold that the spousal limitations are unconstitutional as applied to public employees with same-sex domestic partners, and we vacate the judgment below. We ask the parties to file supplemental memoranda addressing the issue of remedy.
II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS