Editor’s note: This is part one in a series of stories regarding same-sex marriage on the central Kenai Peninsula.
By Jenny Neyman
For an event so charged with controversy, moral condemnation, protestations of equal rights, years of legal wrangling and no less than an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the ceremony Friday at the Kenai Courthouse was most remarkable in its absence of anything particularly remarkable. All went as it normally would.
The couple arrived a bit early after spending hours getting fancied up, yet still having to rush out of the house because such primping always takes longer than expected. In the clerk’s office they filled out paperwork and paid the fee, while chatting and laughing about nothing in particular, with the nervous energy inherent in completing the mundane that precedes something momentous.
The crowd of friends and family in attendance were just as patiently good-natured, a knot of smiles, laughter and camera phones brightening the solemn vibe more typically imbuing a courthouse hallway.
The marriage ceremony itself was mostly boilerplate. The officiant read from a script, and the participants spoke when expected to, responding as expected to. The crowd teared and cheered on the regular cues — the entrance march (with music they provided themselves, singing an enthusiastic a cappella “dah, dum t’dumm, dah dum t’dumm”), the exchange of rings, the kiss.
There was, of course, the obvious difference. The bride, with her pink bouquet and white lace overlay dress, facing her bride, with her pink bouquet and white-and-black floral dress.
The officiant asking if Heidi would take this woman, Tanya, to be her lawfully wedded wife. And if Tanya would do the same, both promising to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, as long as they both shall live.
Heidi King and Tanya Luck’s ceremony Friday was only the second same-sex marriage to be performed at the Kenai Courthouse — the first being two men married the day before — since Alaska was required to lift its ban on gay marriage.
Despite the larger legal context — the Alaska Legislature passing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 1998 with a voter referendum approving the measure, a federal district court on Oct. 12 declaring the ban unconstitutional, the state appealing the decision and the U.S. Supreme Court declining the hear a similar case, thus validating the lower court decision — the ceremony itself was a lot like all the other marriages performed at the courthouse prior to last Thursday. And that’s exactly how the couple wanted it.
“Really, we’re like any other couple,” King said.