The Alaska Supreme Court on Friday ruled that government offices must provide health, job and pension benefits to the same-sex partners of public employees, overturning a lower court's ruling.
The spousal limitations in the benefits programs therefore affect public employees with same-sex domestic partners differently than public employees who are married.
Nine gay or lesbian government workers and their partners in 2002 joined the Alaska Civil Liberties Union in appealing a ruling in a 1999 lawsuit filed against the state and the Municipality of Anchorage after voters passed a constitutional amendment blocking state recognition of gay marriage.
In the 2001 Superior Court ruling, Judge Stephanie Joannides said the state and municipality did not have to extend benefits to same-sex couples. Joannides ruled that gay and lesbian couples are in the same legal standing as unmarried heterosexual couples, who also aren't eligible for benefits.
Plaintiffs had argued that Alaska's exclusion of same-sex marriage makes it impossible for gays employed by the state or city to get benefits for their partners because marriage is required to qualify.
The ACLU advocates setting up a domestic partner registry to determine benefit eligibility, AP reports.