Alaska Supreme Court Hears Same-Sex Couples' Tax Case
Suit over property tax exemption afforded to married couples
ANCHORAGE - On Wednesday the Alaska Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case concerning whether same-sex couples should be entitled to the same property tax exemption under state law as married couples in which one of the spouses is 65 or over or is a disabled veteran.
Three same-sex couples sued the state because both partners were not entitled to claim the exemption of up to $150,000 on an owner-occupied home.
A Superior Court judge declared the distinction between same-sex and married couples to be unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the Constitution, despite the 1998 constitutional amendment identifying marriage as between a man and a woman.
The state appealed that decision.
Assistant Attorney General Lance Nelson said, "It didn't just mean that people who are not heterosexual could not be married, but that all the laws in place that regulate and impact marriage would be limited to... that the intent of the marriage amendment was to limit those laws and their application to married couples as defined by the marriage amendment, which means heterosexual couples."
Roger Leishman, the plaintiffs' attorney, counters that the marriage amendment accomplished only one thing: to prevent same-sex couples from marrying in Alaska.
Plaintiff Gayle Schuh said, "I think the justices had some wonderful questions for the attorneys today, and i think they know the road ahead of them, and I'm hopeful they're going to come out on the side of equality for everyone."
In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex partners of public employees are entitled to health insurance benefits because they are similarly situated to married couples who qualify for those benefits and cannot marry, due to the constitutional amendment.