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Same-Sex Couple Files Alaska Permanent Fund Lawsuit

January 10th, 2020

The Dayton City Council recently adjourned in applause after the city passed an ordinance to protect LGBTQ individuals from discrimination.
One member of a same-sex couple in Alaska was recently denied her 2019 Permanent Fund dividends because of an outdated law prohibiting same-sex marriage.

Several individuals in Alaska were recently denied 2019 Permanent Fund dividends because they are married to same-sex individuals, who are either in the military or students living outside of the state. The lawsuit, which was filed in Alaskan federal court by one member of a same-sex couple, claims that as the spouse of a military member, she was denied $1,606 in permanent fund dividends due to an Alaska law prohibiting same-sex marriage. A federal judge in Alaska, however, struck down this law in 2014.

The Role of Permanent Fund Dividends

The Alaska Permanent Fund is a constitutionally permitted permanent fund managed by the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation, which is a state-owned corporation. A permanent fund is one of five governmental fund types. The fund can be used to generate and disburse money to those entitled to receive payments by either qualification or agreement. In the case of the Alaska funds, this fund was created for Alaska citizens or residents who satisfy the rules for payment from their permanent fund from state oil revenues. 

How the Lawsuit Arose

After learning about the dividend denial to the same-sex couple in September 2019, the plaintiff’s attorney published a Facebook post requesting that others who also had their dividends denied speak to the attorney. The day that this post was made, the plaintiff also heard from a worker in the state’s permanent fund division who confirmed that the state still had a policy of denying payments to a same-sex couple as well as the children of the same-sex couple due to the outdated law.

This worker gave the plaintiff other details about the practice as well, which facilitated the basis for a lawsuit. The basis of the lawsuit is both the plaintiff’s experience with being denied a dividend as well as the fact that state workers were not yet asked to reverse and pay any denials before 2019. The plaintiff’s lawsuit requests that a federal just both order the state of Alaska to allow the plaintiff to receive her own dividend as well as permanently block Alaska from denying dividends to same-sex individuals.

Contrasting Views

Part of the lawsuit makes references to an unnamed worker in the Alaskan Permanent Fund Dividend Division. Details provided by this worker contradict a press release by the Alaska Attorney General, who said that the division was not aware of anyone else who was similarly situated to the person who initiated the lawsuit. 

The Attorney General also accuses the plaintiff’s attorney of filing a false lawsuit that ignored state law, which had previously been reversed. Because the division promptly remedied this situation, the Attorney General argues that there is no point in a lawsuit. 

The Universal Life Church

After several landmark cases that advanced the rights of LGTBQ individuals, there were setbacks for same-sex couples in this country. Most noticeably, these obstacles came in the form of President Trump’s appointment of two conservative Supreme Court Justices and the Supreme Court’s decision in the Masterpiece Cake Shop case. It remains uncertain exactly what the future holds for LGBTQ individuals in this country. As these changes occur, our blog focuses on the most noteworthy developments regarding LGBTQ rights. 

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