The Freedom to Marry in Alaska

Winning Marriage: October 12, 2014

United States District Judge Timothy Burgess ruled in favor of the freedom to marry in Alaska on October 12, 2014, allowing all same-sex couples in Alaska the ability to marry once and for all beginning the next day. The ruling followed a pro-marriage decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which set a precedent for the freedom to marry across the circuit, including in Alaska.

History and the Path to Victory:

  • May 6, 1996: The Alaska Legislature passes a state statute restricting marriage to different-sex couples and preventing the state from recognizing marriages between same-sex couples. Governor Tony Knowles allows the statute to pass without his signature.
  • February 27, 1998: Anchorage Superior Court Judge Peter Michalski rules in Brause v. Bureau of Vital Statistics that same-sex couples have the freedom to marry in Alaska, in a court case filed in 1995 by Jay Brause and Gene Dugan. The state of Alaska appeals the decision to the Alaska Supreme Court.
  • November 3, 1998: Opponents of the freedom to marry in Alaska push through Ballot Measure 2, a constitutional amendment denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry. The amendment cements clearly discriminatory language into the Alaska Constitution.
  • August 17, 1999: The Alaska Supreme Court, pointing to the passage of Ballot Measure 2 in 1998, overturns the Superior Court decision in favor of the freedom to marry in Brause v. Bureau of Vital Statistics, blocking same-sex couples from marriage. 
  • 1999-2014: As Americans nationwide engage in conversations about why marriage matters, national and local advocates in Alaska take strides toward increasing understanding of same-sex couples and their families.
  • February 2013: Polling in Alaska tracks a marked growth in support for the freedom to marry, reflecting the power of the national discussion of why marriage matters.
  • May 12, 2014: Same-sex couples and private lawyers file a federal legal case seeking the freedom to marry in Alaska, Hamby v. Parnell. Meet the plaintiffs here – and read the initial complaint here. 
  • October 7, 2014: The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rules in favor of the freedom to marry in cases based in Nevada and Idaho. The decision, combined with the U.S. Supreme Court’s October 6 choice to deny review in several pro-marriage federal appellate decisions, sets a precedent that becomes binding across the circuit, including in Alaska.
  • October 12, 2014:  District Court Judge Timothy Burgess rules in favor of the freedom to marry in Alaska, bound by the precedent established by the 9th Circuit. Same-sex couples begin to marry soon after.
  • June 26, 2015: The United States Supreme Court rules in favor of the freedom to marry, ending marriage discrimination across the country.

Groups that Actively Worked on Marriage:

  • Alaskans Together was an educational and political non-profit working to advance civil equality for all Alaskans through public education.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska works to defend liberty throughout Alaska.
  • The Love is Love Project worked to capture the stories and photos of loving same-sex couples and their families, first in Alaska and later across the country.
  • Freedom to Marry was the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.