A federal court ruling over the weekend overturned Alaska’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. While Gov. Sean Parnell said he’ll appeal, experts say that appeal is unlikely to succeed. And in the meantime, gay couples in Alaska are filling out marriage license applications. One of those couples lives in Ketchikan, and was the first to file for a marriage license here, early Monday.
Charles Valadez and Jay Hochberg have been a couple for eight years. They met in Philadelphia, and lived in Texas before moving to Alaska. Hochberg is an attorney with the state Office of Public Defense, and said the court ruling making his marriage possible means a lot.
“Marriage is a legal relation with important rights and duties attached to it, but for us it’s also important as a formal recognition of something that is very precious for us, which is our partnership,” he said.
Hochberg said he and Valadez have been waiting for same-sex marriage to become possible in this state.
“We live in Alaska, and we were waiting and hoping for the law to change here, so we could get married in Ketchikan,” he said.
Hochberg said they’ve talked before about what kind of wedding they’d like to have, with lots of different ideas over the years.
“But to tell you the truth, we feel like we’ve been waiting so long, we’re just going to hurry up and have a wedding at the courthouse, a short ceremony just for us, and probably throw a big party sometime down the road,” he said.
Hochberg said he understands that not everyone agrees that gay couples should be allowed to get married.
“I respect people’s rights to have those beliefs, and I hope that over time those beliefs will change,” he said. “If anything, extending civil marriage to same-sex couples only enforces the importance of marriage to individuals and communities, and is really just a testament to the enduring place of marriage in our laws and in our community spirit.”
Alaska requires couples to wait three days to get married after filing their application. Hochberg said he and Valadez will have a private ceremony at the courthouse as soon as possible.
The State of Alaska on Monday filed a motion in federal court for a stay, which, if granted, would delay the issuance of marriage licenses for same-sex couples. At deadline Monday, there was no word on whether that motion was approved.
Valadez declined to be interviewed for this story.