Alaska News

State: 74 Alaska same-sex couples received marriage licenses

Close to one-fifth of the marriage licenses issued in Alaska over the last month have gone to same-sex couples, according to the state office of vital statistics.

Alaska, one of 32 states where gay marriage has been legalized, has issued an estimated 74 marriage licenses to same-sex couples following court approval in mid-October. There have been a total of about 400 marriage licenses issued since the federal court action overturned the constitutional ban.

Philip Mitchell, section chief of the Bureau of Vital Statistics, cautions that the state does not catalog applications according to sex and the terminology is not always clear, so these are estimates.

"When the couple apply each party may refer to themselves as bride, groom or spouse. We are estimating a same-sex couple is one that has not chosen to refer to themselves as 'bride-groom'. However it is possible a same-sex couple could refer to themselves as 'bride-groom' and some couples that were not same-sex could select 'spouse-spouse,'" he said.

He said that 57 of the licenses that appear to be for same-sex couples went to people in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau.

Mitchell said the accounting may also be incomplete because in some cases marriage certificates sought through local court offices don't make it back to the state office.

"Thus if some same-sex couples applied at a local court and have not picked up the license, or they picked up the license and have not been married, or they have been married and not returned the marriage certificate to our office we would not have a record of that application," he said.

The state began accepting applications from same-sex couples Oct. 13, after a federal judge found that the Alaska ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.

Dermot Cole

Former ADN columnist Dermot Cole is a longtime reporter, editor and author.