ALASKA’S Supreme Court ruled in favour of elderly LGBTI families last Friday, striking down bans preventing committed LGBTI couples in the US state from accessing various property tax exemptions reserved for senior citizens and military veterans.

The rules were challenged by lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Alaskan office of the legal conglomerate Davis Wright Tremaine, on behalf of three couples who were denied full access to a $150,000 property tax exemption that Alaska makes available to opposite-sex married couples.

According to the ACLU, Alaska treated LGBTI citizens in committed same-sex relationships as roommates rather than families, compounded by the fact same-sex marriage is not yet legal there. As a result, these same-sex couples were only able to claim tax exemptions for only half of the value of their homes and other assets.

ACLU’s executive director in Alaska Joshua Decker said in a statement that the presence of such bans have had an influence on the wellbeing of Alaskan LGBTI couples.

“Families in Alaska deserve better than a second-class system of laws for same-sex couples who are just as committed to each other as heterosexual couples,” Decker said.

“Our senior citizens and veterans should not have to pay more taxes just because they happen to be gay or lesbian.”

The lead plaintiffs of the case against the state of Alaska were Julie Schmidt, 71, and Gayle Schuh, 66, who have been partners for over 36 years. Schmidt and Schuh moved to Alaska after retiring from their careers in education in Illinois.

“Gayle and I built a home and a life here because we loved what Alaska had to offer,” Schmidt said.

“It hurt that the state that we loved so much treated us like strangers. It is gratifying to have our relationship recognised.”

Unlike Australia, limited tax reform has occurred for LGBTI families across the US, with many states neglecting to recognise same-sex relationships under law.

This has resulted in extra financial burdens being placed upon LGBTI families, with such laws only starting to change after the US Supreme Court struck down the Defence of Marriage Act last year.

Since 2008, the Australian Government has worked to offer various tax exemptions and benefits to LGBTI families, in line with their heterosexual counterparts.

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