Shotgun amendment on Rep. Claman’s wedding bill would make marriage under 16 illegal in Alaska


A bill that was intended to help the wedding industry in Alaska by removing the two witness requirement turned into something else with Amendment 9 on Thursday — raising the minimum age for marriage in Alaska to 16. The amendment passed the House on a vote of 33-3, with four excused.

Rep. Sara Rasmussen offered the hastily drawn up amendment to Rep. Matt Claman’s original bill. The amendment was co-sponsored by Reps. Harriet Drummond, Liz Snyder, Ivy Spohnholz, and Sarah Vance.

Three who voted against the bill were from the Mat-Su Borough — Reps. David Eastman, Chris Kurka, and DeLena Johnson.

Currently, younger teens can get married if they either have their parents’ permission or ask a judge to sign off on it. Alaska law currently does not permit those under the age of 16 to marry without court permission.

“Persons ages 16 and 17 must submit a parental consent form signed by both parents with their application. If one parent is sole custodian of the minor, a divorce decree stating custody rights or a death certificate must be presented as well. Alaska law does not permit those under the age of 16 to marry without a court order,” state law reads.

Instances of teens marrying at age 14-16 are rare. But for a teen who is pregnant, marriage may be the best of few options, especially if a teen does not want to have an abortion and wants the baby to be baptized in some churches. Amendment 9 strips a judge’s ability to make that decision about whether marriage is in the best interest of the individual.

Former Sen. Berta Gardner, who represented midtown Anchorage for many years, had tried to get the marriage age raised while she was in office, to no avail.

Rep. Claman has been offering various wedding legislation for years, such as making legislators automatically eligible to be officiants at weddings without having to register and pay a fee. His bill this year, HB 62, cheapens the marriage covenant by eliminating the two-witness requirement, and it gave Rasmussen the opportunity to hijack the bill’s original intent. Notably, the two are paired against each other in the same district, under the new political maps approved by the Alaska Redistricting Board. Claman voted in favor of the Rasmussen amendment.

Rep. DeLena Johnson of Palmer said she opposed it because this was committee work that was being done on the floor. “I don’t typically vote yes on those kinds of amendments,” she said.

Rasmussen had rewritten her amendment three times and then, after the bill was delayed, got help from the Legislature’s legal staff in crafting the amendment properly, legislators noted.

Johnson has other concerns, too. “There are cultures in Alaska that have been here for long time that are not all the same and some have a history of having young marriages. My own mother married at 14 and lived a long and productive life with my father,” she said. “I don’t believe that people have had a chance to think about affects on other cultures because we were, in fact, doing committee work on the floor.”

Old Believers in Alaska, a group of Russian-heritage, very conservative Christians, may marry earlier than people in other cultures. It’s not uncommon for them to marry at age 15.

In recent generations, people marrying at 16 was not uncommon, although 21-22 was more common. Today the average age of marriage is between 25-20 years old. In Alaska, the average age for women to marry is 26, while the average age for men to marry is 28.7.

All over the country, the rate of marriages is dropping. “Since the start of the 21st century, the marriage rate has declined from more than eight marriages per 1,000 down to six marriages per 1,000 population in 2019. That marriage rate is the lowest level since the U.S. government began keeping marriage records for the country in 1867,” according to reporting by The Hill.


  1. The indigenous peoples used to marry their daughters at the age of 12 or even younger. We need to have respect for their traditional values don’t we? We should lower the age of marriage.

      • Frank, Your lack of understanding of history and culture combined with your self-righteousness might be disturbing also.

        • I understand the history of exploiting indigenous people and women. Your defense of a disturbing post is also quite telling

          • Frank, How are indigenous people exploited here? My reference was to allowing Freedom of Choice within all cultures, whether they be Old Believers , Texans, Inupiaq or even Western European leftist like you.
            Interesting how you see yourself as being a champion of women’s rights, does that extend into the rights of unborn women also?

  2. This is a meanly crafted, mean spirited effort. The law functions fine as is. No need to change it. Drop it and work on the budget.

    • We DO NOT need to lower the age limit..15 and younger; is way too young for many people… The indigenous people have their own laws. Wasn’t it several years ago when we were involved in Afghanistan, we revolted about them marrying young, forget the fact they mutilated the young girls. We need to stop children having babies. They are too young to work to pay for their children they produce.

      • We need to complete a rational, adult budget to: be compliant with the people’s command as if the legislators give a flying fig about the law and to stop moralizing to the public – we didn’t hire you to rule or preach at us. Our current law is fine. Tell God adult hormones are not allowed in people until they are 18. Do it! You are so much smarter than the Creator right?

  3. Marriage is a major institution in our society. This bill cannot be properly vetted in the Juneau cloister by Alaska. Who has decided this law is a problem. We have been clamoring for the budget and pfd to be correctly completed not for these public servants to begin unilaterally changing the law that underpins our Alaskan society. The way it is done is sneaky and improbable. Why do we have to be like the other 24 states. Did the New World Order say so and sent up the new legislation (You will own nothing and be happy. Klaus Schwab). This is part of that agenda or this would not be happening. These lefties have some nerve. The family unit is not safe. This state run in the Juneau cloister is terrible.

  4. “and wants the baby to be baptized in the Catholic Church”
    This is misinformation.
    The child can be baptized in the Catholic Church regardless of whether the parents are married.

  5. With the divorce rate the way it is, kids breeding out of control as it is, this is disastrous. No 16 year old Male can support another teenager wife or baby (because that would be the
    only reason to do that) without welfare. They barely can get a job nor do they have the aptitude for it at that age. This is dumb. Anything to pass a bill these days right? No Morality just allow immature idiots to marry that have Mommy and Daddys permission? What so they can have more kids they can’t care for?? Unreal

    • Alaskansriseup, Why can’t a sixteen year old support a wife and child? I left home at about that age and came back the following year and bought my mother a house. Is it because we as a society put such low expectations on our youth that we coddle them until they are 26?

    • Civilized people seldom characterize population “growth” of a nation to be “breeding”. The term “breeding” is used in animal husbandry complete with with “stud books”. How far would you like to go with this jargon downgrading your countrymen to cattle terms?

  6. If Sara were so concerned about this, why sneak it in at the last moment?

    Pillow talk with her boyfriend Zack?

    The only thing worse than Democrats in Alaska are Republicans.

  7. Unbelievable that this is the sort of stuff they are spending time on while we’re having trouble paying for gas and food. How disconnected from reality they are.

  8. This turn of events suits me. I am not a fan of the idea of child brides, and although that is not exactly what this is about, it speaks to it.

  9. Pure politics. Another democrat helping another democrat take him off the hot seat by introducing an amendment such a waste of time. I hope her district replaces her.

  10. President Trump showed us all how simple it is to be a politician of oath integrity. He exposed it all and they trampled him for it. Oath breakers have been at the evil so long it’s all they know wrongly taught it’s all they know. GOD and Jesus want a relationship with everyone one of us personally. The Bible has so many wonderful things for one’s life what book tells you take one step towards me I will take 2 towards you the Bible is our standard for life. Oath integrity is all our country needs please stop and turn back to GOD please oath takers oath integrity.

  11. We are paying these people a lot of money so they can argue about something that nobody really cares about because the law has been fine for many years. When will they start working to decrease our over- inflated budget so that we don’t have to talk about an income tax when oil returns to normal, or we don’t need it anymore because it will be replaced by wind and solar as the woke people predict. At 300 dollars of tax free money a day I guess there is no hurry to do their job. How about some new holidays? Let’s rename some more roads. Or better yet, let’s get rid of the daylight savings. But not for Southeast, the carpet baggers have a schedule.

  12. We should be more concerned with our energy future. It’s an “all hands on deck” moment if we want to survive as a state and nation. Shutting Alaska down while we beg the Saudis, the Iranians, Venezuelans, and other human rights abusing countries for more of their oil. This is a nightmare I wish I could wake from.

  13. They had to dig deep to pull this BS out of their hats!!! Get to work on real issues for God’s sake!!!! What are we paying these jokers for???

  14. Did anybody think the current marital laws were a problem? Why are representatives wasting time and money on stupid bills like this? Cut the bloated budget, dang it!

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