Alaska Supreme Court Ruling Recognizes Same Sex Couples' Rights to Workers Compensation

Jul 28, 2014

The Alaska Supreme Court ruled on Friday that excluding same sex couples the right to collect workers compensation would constitute unequal treatment under the law. 

In 2011, Kerry Fadely was working at the Millennium Hotel in Anchorage when she was shot and killed by a disgruntled former employee. Her partner of 10 years, Deborah Harris, was denied any workers compensation afterwards and subsequently lost their house.

Credit http://www.brownstonelaw.com

After the claim was denied, Harris appealed to the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board.  The 18 members on that panel were appointed by Governor Sean Parnell.  The panel agreed with the hotel that compensation was not owed because same-sex marriage is not recognized in Alaska. 

The Communications director for the Alaska Democratic Party Zack Fields says although it’s still not legal for same sex couples to get married, he does believe the ruling from the court is a great step toward marriage equality.

“The Supreme Court issued an important decision in support of equality for all Alaskans.  What the court said is in the case of workers compensation both same sex couples and married couples are entitled to the same workers compensation benefits.”

Fields says this is the third time the state has struck down what he calls discriminatory state laws provisions.  He says this ruling isn’t just an LGBT issue.

“The important thing here is we are continuing the march toward equality. The majority of Alaskans support marriage equality, and the ability for all Alaskans to get married.  And it’s very positive to see the courts moving in that direction as well.”

This ruling follows the lawsuit filed in May of this year from five gay couples challenging Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage.  Hamby v. Parnell is awaiting plaintiffs to file their motion for judgment by August 22nd.