I must say that I'm rather impressed with the current Alaska Supreme Court:
Same-sex couples in Alaska should be able to receive death benefits when a partner dies despite a state ban on gay marriage, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled on Friday in its second decision in four months to favour granting benefits to gay couples.Pretty straightforward. As Alaska's marriage discrimination amendment only bans the label marriage, but not any legal incidents of marriage for same-sex couples, the amendment cannot be used to deny death benefits. And as an opposite-sex surviving partner could get death benefits but a same-sex surviving partner could not, the latter was discriminated against.
In ruling that a 1998 amendment to the state constitution forbidding same-sex marriage did not extend to barring death benefits to same-sex couples, the court overturned a decision by the Alaska Workers Compensation Board.
The board, in denying the claim [to a survivor of a dead same-sex partner], had cited the state's constitutional amendment as "only between one man and one woman." But the state Supreme Court ruled that utilizing a narrow definition of a widow to exclude same-sex partners "violates the surviving's partner's right to equal protection under the law."
This is not the first time that the Alaska Supreme Court has ruled favorably. In 2005, they ordered the state to give benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of public employees. And in April, they ruled that same-sex couples must be given the $150,000 tax exemtpion given to senior citizens and disabled veterans in opposite-sex marriages.
I am very pleased so see a judiciary so willing to step in and defend the rights of minorities.