Alaska congressional delegation is split on issue of gay marriage

Lisa Demer

With the emotionally charged issue of same-sex marriage in the national spotlight this week during U.S. Supreme Court arguments, where does Alaska's congressional delegation stand?

They are split. The lone Democrat, Sen. Mark Begich, is the only one to step forward as a supporter of gay marriage, what supporters often call a civil rights issue of marriage equality.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who was ill this week and unavailable for direct comment, has not supported same-sex marriage in the past, said her communications director, Matthew Felling.

Rep. Don Young opposes the notion.

"Congressman Young personally believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman, but that it is up to each state to decide the issue," his office said in an e-mailed statement.

There was a bit of confused commotion over Begich's stance this week with some reports that he had "flipped." But he's supported equal rights for people who are gay and lesbian all along, including support for same-sex marriage, said press secretary Heather Handyside.

"I believe that same sex couples should be able to marry and should have the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as any other married couple," Begich said in a statement. "Government should keep out of individuals' personal lives--if someone wants to marry someone they love, they should be able to. Alaskans are fed up with government intrusion into our private lives, our daily business, and in the way we manage our resources and economy."

The confusion came after the website BuzzFeed posted a story Saturday afternoon that identified Begich as one of four moderate Democrats who either would not state their position on marriage, or declined to comment.

Handyside, his press aide, said the BuzzFeed reporter first asked about Begich's position at 4 p.m. Friday -- right in the middle of the budget debate.

"I literally couldn't get a statement from him -- we were incredibly busy trying to follow all the amendments," she said. "That's why we didn't respond." His office sent out his position on Monday, prompting some other media outlets to declare that Begich had flipped.

In fact, Begich has publicly supported same-sex marriage for years, she said. The Human Rights Campaign has tracked and published Begich's stance since 2009, including in a report card from the last Congress that says he supports marriage equality.

Reach Lisa Demer at or 257-4390.



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