Dunleavy sued over PFD denial to woman in same-sex marriage
A woman is suing Gov. Mike Dunleavy alleging he violated federal law by denying her a 2018 Permanent Fund dividend because she was in a same-sex marriage.
Two Anchorage attorneys on Wednesday filed the suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska on behalf of Denali Nicole Smith.
Attorneys Caitlin Shortell and Heather Gardner also named Attorney General Kevin Clarkson, outgoing Revenue Commissioner Bruce Tangeman and Permanent Fund Dividend Director Anne Weske in the suit.
Smith is married to Miranda Murphy, a member of the U.S. armed forces in Jacksonville, Fla.
According to lawsuit attachments, the state denied Smith a PFD because she “was absent from Alaska 206 days during 2018 accompanying her same sex spouse.”
Her attorneys also allege the state “verbally explained to Denali that if she were married to a man, she would not be denied her PFD.”
The state also cited same-sex statutes that Smith’s attorneys say federal courts have since prohibited or, in legal terms, enjoined.
In the suit, Garnder and Shortell write:
“Five years after this court issued a permanent injunction from enforcement of the statutes, the State does not recognize the lawful marriages of same sex couples and declares their marriages void under Alaska law. Denali Smith is lawfully married under the laws of sister states, but Alaska refuses to recognize her same sex marriage as a basis to deny her a PFD.”
Smith seeks several remedies, including:
• Requiring the state pay any and all individuals PFDs, plus interest, to any individuals who were denied a PFD from 2014 based state laws “banning same sex marriage, recognition of same sex marriage, or excluding same sex married couples from the benefits of marriage;”
• Requiring the state to pay Smith her 2019 dividend, plus “interest, costs, expenses, and reasonable attorney’s fees pursuant.”
• Requiring the state to identify anyone “denied the right to marry, recognition of their marriage, or benefits of marriage based upon the enjoined statutes since the date of the permanent injunction;”
“The right to marry the person of one’s choice and to direct the course of one’s life without undue government restriction is one of the fundamental rights protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Defendants’ actions to enforce the marriage ban statutes, years after these laws were voided and permanently enjoined, impermissibly infringe upon Plaintiff’s choices of whom to marry and interfere with a fundamental and intimate personal choice,” the complaint reads.
Alaska's Department of Law said they are reviewing the suit.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said the spouse was in the U.S. Air Force; however, the lawsuit does not specify which branch of the military she is in.
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