Alaska News

Plaintiffs challenging Alaska's same-sex marriage ban legally wed after week of legal back-and-forth

Snow, slush, a state holiday and complex legal maneuvering from the court system weren't enough to stop Courtney Lamb and Stephanie Pearson from getting married.

The two wed Monday in an impromptu ceremony outside the Midtown Anchorage Frontier Building, a mere half-hour after picking up their marriage license from the Bureau of Vital Statistics.

The day had been a week in the making. Pearson and Lamb were one of five couples who in May challenged Alaska's same-sex marriage ban, arguing that the amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman denied them equal protection and due process rights. U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess overturned the ban on those points on Sunday, Oct. 12, and couples began applying for licenses the following Monday. But between the three-day waiting period when licenses were applied for and when they were actually issued, couples found themselves in the middle of legal ping-pong as the state of Alaska fought the judge's order.

Friday, that legal back-and-forth ceased with the U.S. Supreme Court denying a further appeal in Hamby v. Parnell, the lawsuit seeking to have the ban overturned. While a challenge at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is still pending, marriages were finally allowed to go forward Monday.

A small crowd of media, close friends and other well-wishers joined the couple in a four-minute ceremony. Mad Myrna's bartender G. Frank "Mimi" Jenkins officiated the ceremony. In his duties, he noted that even though the ceremony was the final step for a legal wedding, that in itself didn't make a marriage.

"Marriage is perhaps the greatest and most challenging adventure of human relationships," he told the two. "No ceremony can create your marriage; only you can do that."

Minutes later, the two exchanged rings, and Jenkins declared them wed.

"I now pronounce you wives. You may now kiss each other," he told the crowd before concluding the ceremony. The couple met the crowd with hugs and a few tears while an assembled group serenaded the two with "Give Yourself to Love."

Lamb and Pearson immediately took their license back to the vital statistics bureau. After the whirlwind week, they wanted to complete everything as soon as possible.

"It was a roller coaster of emotions; it was exhausting," Pearson said of watching the legal maneuvering play out.

The weekend had the two crossing their fingers, but when asked if they ever thought their wedding wouldn't happen, they responded with a firm "no."

"Love wins, always," Lamb said.

With the legal ceremony out of the way, Lamb and Pearson plan to spend the next few months planning for a larger ceremony in May.

They said they were happy to be one of the first same-sex couples in Alaska to be married once the ban was lifted. As they turned in their license, other same-sex couples streamed into the vital statistics office to apply for licenses. Lamb said seeing that was amazing.

"I felt like (marriage equality in Alaska) was a story in the making and people needed an ending," Lamb said. "And here it is."

"Our own fairy tale," Pearson added.

Suzanna Caldwell

Suzanna Caldwell is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News and Alaska Dispatch. She left the ADN in 2017.

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