Legislature(2019 - 2020)GRUENBERG 120

03/04/2020 01:00 PM JUDICIARY

Note: the audio and video recordings are distinct records and are obtained from different sources. As such there may be key differences between the two. The audio recordings are captured by our records offices as the official record of the meeting and will have more accurate timestamps. Use the icons to switch between them.

Download Mp3. <- Right click and save file as

Audio Topic
01:09:57 PM Start
01:10:31 PM HB148
01:47:00 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
+= HB 148 MARRIAGE WITNESSES TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
               HOUSE JUDICIARY STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                         March 4, 2020                                                                                          
                           1:09 p.m.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Representative Matt Claman, Chair                                                                                               
Representative Chuck Kopp                                                                                                       
Representative Harriet Drummond                                                                                                 
Representative Louise Stutes                                                                                                    
Representative Gabrielle LeDoux                                                                                                 
Representative Laddie Shaw                                                                                                      
Representative David Eastman                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
HOUSE BILL NO. 148                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to solemnization of marriage."                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
BILL: HB 148                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: MARRIAGE WITNESSES                                                                                                 
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) CLAMAN                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
04/29/19       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
04/29/19       (H)       STA, JUD                                                                                               
02/20/20       (H)       STA AT 3:00 PM GRUENBERG 120                                                                           
02/20/20       (H)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
02/20/20       (H)       MINUTE(STA)                                                                                            
02/27/20       (H)       STA AT 3:00 PM GRUENBERG 120                                                                           
02/27/20       (H)       Moved HB 148 Out of Committee                                                                          
02/27/20       (H)       MINUTE(STA)                                                                                            
02/28/20       (H)       STA RPT 5DP 1DNP                                                                                       
02/28/20       (H)       DP: HOPKINS, THOMPSON, STORY, FIELDS,                                                                  
                         KREISS-TOMKINS                                                                                         
02/28/20       (H)       DNP: VANCE                                                                                             
03/02/20       (H)       JUD AT 1:00 PM GRUENBERG 120                                                                           
03/02/20       (H)       Scheduled but Not Heard                                                                                
03/04/20       (H)       JUD AT 1:00 PM GRUENBERG 120                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SOPHIE JONES, Staff                                                                                                             
Representative Matt Claman                                                                                                      
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION  STATEMENT:   Offered an  explanation  on the  Sectional                                                             
Analysis of  HB 148,  on behalf  of Representative  Claman, prime                                                               
sponsor.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
JOE CONNOLLY, Photographer                                                                                                      
Chugach Peaks Photography                                                                                                       
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Offered testimony in support of HB 148.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CIAN MULHERN, Reverend                                                                                                          
Celtic Ministries                                                                                                               
Wasilla, Alaska                                                                                                                 
POSITION STATEMENT:  Offered testimony in support of HB 148.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
ERIN VELANDER, Wedding Planner                                                                                                  
Blomma Designs                                                                                                                  
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Offered testimony in support of HB 148.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
1:09:57 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR MATT  CLAMAN called the House  Judiciary Standing Committee                                                             
meeting to order at 1:09  p.m.  Representatives Claman, Drummond,                                                               
LeDoux,  Shaw, and  Eastman were  present at  the call  to order.                                                               
Representatives Kopp,  and Stutes arrived  as the meeting  was in                                                               
progress.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
                   HB 148-MARRIAGE WITNESSES                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
1:10:31 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN announced  that the only order of  business would be                                                               
HOUSE  BILL  NO.  148,  "An  Act  relating  to  solemnization  of                                                               
marriage."                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
1:10:49 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN passed the gavel to Representative Drummond.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
1:11:08 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN,  as prime  sponsor, introduced HB  148.   He stated                                                               
that at  present, during the  solemnization of  marriage, couples                                                               
must assent  to the marriage in  the presence of each  other, the                                                               
person  solemnizing the  marriage,  and at  least two  additional                                                               
witnesses,  and afterwards  all  parties must  sign the  marriage                                                               
certificates.   He  explained  that HB  148  would eliminate  the                                                               
marriage witness requirement for  the two additional witnesses at                                                               
marriage solemnization and the signatures  of those two witnesses                                                               
on  marriage certificates.    He said  that  these changes  would                                                               
bring Alaska's  ceremonial requirements  into the modern  age and                                                               
help  support   Alaska's  destination  wedding   industry,  while                                                               
preserving the integrity of marriage solemnization.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
1:11:49 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
[REPRESENTATIVE  DRUMMOND  passed  the  gavel  to  Representative                                                               
Kopp.]                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN stated that Alaska is  one of 20 states that require                                                               
two wedding witnesses  in addition to the  person officiating the                                                               
marriage,  and  there are  25  states  that  do not  require  any                                                               
wedding  witnesses.   He  said that  wedding  witnesses played  a                                                               
critical  role in  past centuries  when record  keeping was  less                                                               
automated and  less accurate.  He  said that in England  prior to                                                               
the 18th  century, legal requirements  of marriage  were governed                                                               
by the  canon law of  the Church of  England, and a  marriage was                                                               
considered valid  as long as the  union was consented to  by both                                                               
parties and  celebrated by an  Anglican clergyman.  He  said that                                                               
this  largely informal  process, which  dictated the  validity of                                                               
marriage,   allowed   for   the  proliferation   of   clandestine                                                               
marriages.  In  1746 a woman laid claim to  the recently deceased                                                               
Captain John  Campbell's pension  on the  basis that  she married                                                               
him  in  a clandestine  ceremony,  but  a problem  arose  because                                                               
another woman claimed that she too was the wife of the captain.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  CLAMAN  said  that  the  confusion  that  ensued  from  an                                                               
inability to  verify marriage  claims led  parliament to  pass An                                                               
Act for  the Better Preventing  of Clandestine Marriage,  know as                                                               
the Marriage Act  of 1753.  He explained that  the Act formalized                                                               
the  marriage  process, requiring  that  marriages  be viewed  by                                                               
witnesses  who could  later  be  called on  to  confirm that  the                                                               
marriage took place; an extra  precaution should marriage records                                                               
be damaged or go missing.  He  said that the Marriage Act of 1753                                                               
is the historical basis for the two-witness requirement.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  CLAMAN  stated  that  the role  of  wedding  witnesses  is                                                               
ceremonial in  modern times.   In Alaska, the  person solemnizing                                                               
the ceremony  must meet certain  criteria; however, the  law does                                                               
not  require   any  form  of   witness  verification,   proof  of                                                               
identification,   language   comprehension,    and   no   address                                                               
validation.   He said that HB  148 would allow Alaska  to compete                                                               
more  directly with  states  such as  Hawaii  and Florida,  which                                                               
require no wedding witnesses, and  lead the nation in destination                                                               
weddings.    He expressed  that  destination  weddings, often  on                                                               
mountaintops and glaciers, are a  growing business in Alaska.  He                                                               
said  that the  requirement of  two wedding  witnesses makes  the                                                               
state less  attractive for many  couples who travel  from further                                                               
away and  do not want the  financial burden of a  larger wedding.                                                               
He explained  that couples who  come to Alaska without  their own                                                               
witnesses  are tasked  with finding  strangers  to witness  their                                                               
wedding, and the burden of  supplying these witnesses often falls                                                               
to those who  work in Alaska's wedding industry;  who ask friends                                                               
and family to witness the  weddings of their out-of-town clients.                                                               
He expressed  that the additional  witness requirement  can place                                                               
an increased financial  burden on the couple, in  addition to the                                                               
awkwardness of  having strangers  witness the  wedding.   He said                                                               
that  for a  wedding  in a  remote location,  such  as a  glacier                                                               
accessed by helicopter, a couple  must pay extra seating costs to                                                               
transport the witnesses.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN  stated that at present,  destination weddings bring                                                               
in an estimated  $1 million in revenue to Alaska,  in the form of                                                               
roughly  500 destination  weddings  a year;  this revenue  figure                                                               
does not consider the fact that  more than 90 percent of the out-                                                               
of-state couples who come to Alaska  to get married stay for days                                                               
and weeks to explore the state.   He expressed that the resulting                                                               
benefit to Alaska's  tourism industry is substantial,  and HB 148                                                               
would  simplify the  wedding process  by reducing  the number  of                                                               
hurdles a couple must address to get married.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
1:15:24 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SOPHIE  JONES, Staff,  Representative Matt  Claman, Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, offered an explanation  on the Sectional Analysis of                                                               
HB 148  [hard copy included  in the committee packet],  on behalf                                                               
of  Representative Matt  Claman,  prime sponsor.   She  explained                                                               
that  Section  1   of  HB  148  would  amend   AS  25.05.301,  by                                                               
eliminating  the  requirement  of  two witnesses  at  a  marriage                                                               
solemnization.  She  stated that Section 2 of HB  148 would amend                                                               
AS 25.05.32, by eliminating the  requirement of the signatures of                                                               
two witnesses on marriage certificates.   She said that Section 3                                                               
of  HB 148  would amend  AS  25.05.361, by  deleting language  to                                                               
conform  with  changes   made  in  Section  1   of  the  proposed                                                               
legislation.  She added that Section  4 of HB 148 would repeal AS                                                               
25.05.041(a)(3), and AS 25.05.041(a)(5),  to conform with changes                                                               
made in Section 1 of the proposed legislation.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
1:16:38 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX  asked  for clarification  on  clandestine                                                               
marriage.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
1:16:41 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  CLAMAN   explained  that  his  understanding   is  that  a                                                               
clandestine  marriage  is one  which  takes  place in  a  private                                                               
place, with a couple and a priest.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
1:17:08 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  EASTMAN  commented  that  he thinks  there  is  a                                                               
modern equivalent to clandestine  marriage in some jurisdictions;                                                               
there are  secret marriage  licenses that  are not  available for                                                               
public record  requests.   He said  that if  there was  a probate                                                               
issue someone could  go to vital records and find  out if someone                                                               
was married.  He expressed that  this was an option in California                                                               
when he and his wife were looking to get married.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  EASTMAN asked  whether  the proposed  legislation                                                               
would require  the person  solemnizing the  marriage to  take the                                                               
place of  the witnesses,  and what  the current  requirements are                                                               
for the person solemnizing a marriage.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN replied that the  proposed legislation would not ask                                                               
the  person solemnizing  the marriage  to take  the place  of the                                                               
witnesses, as  he/she already must sign  the marriage certificate                                                               
to indicate  his/her qualifications to  solemnize.  He  said that                                                               
those qualifications are set forth in  statute.  In response to a                                                               
follow  up question  from  Representative  Eastman, he  explained                                                               
that members  of the  clergy from  any denomination,  judges, and                                                               
elected representatives  from the State  of Alaska are  listed in                                                               
statute  as capable  of solemnizing  a marriage.   He  added that                                                               
there are also  provisions allowing any individual  not listed to                                                               
attain a  three-day permit through  the courthouse, or  the Vital                                                               
Statistics  Department,  that  allows   him/her  to  solemnize  a                                                               
marriage.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN  asked how  far ahead  a marriage  must be                                                               
planned, and the  paperwork filed, to receive  a marriage license                                                               
in Alaska.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN answered that his  understanding is that the typical                                                               
couple who  comes to Alaska  for a destination wedding,  of which                                                               
there are hundreds  every year, usually plan  the wedding several                                                               
months in  advance.  He  said that  there is a  three-day waiting                                                               
period after  applying to  acquire a  marriage license,  which is                                                               
unrelated to the  person solemnizing the marriage.   He said that                                                               
there would  be invited  testimony from  a minister  who performs                                                               
destination  weddings  and  someone  like  him  wouldn't  need  a                                                               
special license  to perform  the ceremony;  other times  a couple                                                               
might have a  helicopter pilot perform a ceremony,  in which case                                                               
the pilot  would have to go  to the courthouse within  three days                                                               
of  the  ceremony to  get  the  certificate allowing  him/her  to                                                               
perform the ceremony.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
1:20:51 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KOPP  commented  that   AS  25.05.261  lists  the                                                               
individuals  who may  solemnize a  marriage.   He  added that  he                                                               
thinks  the  law  was recently  amended  to  include  individuals                                                               
holding  an  elected office  in  the  state.    He said  that  AS                                                               
25.05.271  describes  the  "duty  of  officiating  person  before                                                               
ceremony," and he  noted that if the officiating  person knows of                                                               
a legal  impediment to the  marriage, he/she may not  perform the                                                               
ceremony.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KOPP remarked that  the historical significance of                                                               
having two witnesses, whether it  be from the Hammurabi code, the                                                               
Magna  Carta,  or  common  law  marriage  in  England,  has  lent                                                               
credibility to the  solemnity of marriage, and  asked whether the                                                               
proposed  legislation  would  be minimizing  the  seriousness  of                                                               
marriage.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN  replied that  he does not  think it  would minimize                                                               
the seriousness  of marriage at  all.   He remarked that  the two                                                               
witness requirement  dates from the  Marriage Act of  1753, which                                                               
post dates the Magna Carta  by "some centuries," and he explained                                                               
that  England had  left matters  of controlling  marriage to  the                                                               
church,  which  was  performing the  ceremonies  without  keeping                                                               
records  of them.   He  reiterated  that the  discrepancy he  had                                                               
mentioned  before, regarding  Captain John  Campbell and  his two                                                               
wives,  prompted  the parliament  to  pass  laws allowing  it  to                                                               
regulate  marriage, because  leaving  it to  the  church had  not                                                               
worked as  well as it  had hoped.   He said that  the two-witness                                                               
requirement  was  more community  based  in  those days,  as  the                                                               
marriages were  typically taking place in  small communities, and                                                               
the witness requirement  was a way to ensure that  members of the                                                               
community, who  knew the  couple, could vouch  for the  fact that                                                               
the wedding had occurred.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN  stated that  in Alaska there  is a  rigorous record                                                               
keeping   requirement   maintained   by  the   Vital   Statistics                                                               
Department.    He  explained  that  the  witness  requirement  is                                                               
different  from older  days,  as  the witnesses  do  not have  to                                                               
provide  information such  as  their name  or  address, and  many                                                               
times the  witnesses wouldn't  even know where  to begin  to find                                                               
the couple  getting married,  because they  are just  signing the                                                               
document without knowing  who the couple are.  As  an example, he                                                               
said that there are marriages  performed in hotels in which hotel                                                               
housecleaning  staff are  brought in  to attend  the marriage  as                                                               
witnesses.   He summarized that the  marriage witness requirement                                                               
has changed with the times,  because good record keeping can show                                                               
what occurred, and  the requirements for witnesses  does not help                                                               
to find them in the event  that you needed to verify the validity                                                               
of a marriage.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
1:25:43 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KOPP  stated  that  he  thinks  every  state  has                                                               
"unlawful marriage"  rules, meaning  that an individual  can only                                                               
be legally married  to one person.  He asked  whether getting rid                                                               
of the  witness requirement  for marriage,  and not  having those                                                               
people to call  for verification, would make it  harder to uphold                                                               
marriage laws  in criminal or divorce  cases.  He added  that the                                                               
person solemnizing the  marriage could die, and it  would be nice                                                               
to  still  have  people  to  talk to  confirm  the  marriage  had                                                               
happened.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN answered  that he had experience with  an issue like                                                               
that mentioned  by Representative Kopp  in his legal  career, but                                                               
not as  a criminal matter.   He added that  he has never  seen or                                                               
heard of  any criminal prosecution  for "improper  marriage," but                                                               
it was  probably an  issue in  the 1800s  when there  was concern                                                               
about Utah entering  the union, and the polygamy  issues in Utah;                                                               
although,  the church  in  Utah eventually  changed  its view  on                                                               
polygamy before entering  the union.  He said that  an issue that                                                               
he has seen  come up more often, is whether  there is evidence of                                                               
divorce.  He  stated that he was working on  a case that involved                                                               
a death,  and a question  was raised  as to whether  the decedent                                                               
had been  lawfully divorced  prior to the  marriage to  the widow                                                               
who was  claiming to be entitled  to the estate of  the decedent.                                                               
He said marriage certificates were  found for both marriages, and                                                               
no  one   started  looking  for  witnesses,   just  the  marriage                                                               
certificates.  He explained that they  did not look for the judge                                                               
presiding  over the  divorce case,  as  judges come  and go,  but                                                               
rather looked for the records  reflecting the actual divorce.  He                                                               
said that they  knew where the divorce had occurred,  went to the                                                               
Vital  Records Department  in  that location,  and  were able  to                                                               
obtain a  copy of the  divorce certificate which showed  that the                                                               
first marriage had lawfully ended.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
1:29:03 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
The committee took a brief at-ease at 1:29 p.m.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
1:29:38 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
[REPRESENTATIVE KOPP passed the gavel to Representative Stutes.]                                                                
                                                                                                                                
1:29:40 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN asked whether  there was something special                                                               
about  marriage  witness  requirements specifically,  or  whether                                                               
witness requirements in general should be looked at in statute.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
1:30:32 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN  replied that he  became interested in  the proposed                                                               
legislation  because he  was contacted  by wedding  photographers                                                               
explaining the  impact that the  wedding witness  requirement was                                                               
having on them to help people  celebrate their marriage.  He said                                                               
that he thinks the wedding  photographers would be better able to                                                               
explain the  impact.  He said  that he thinks there  may be other                                                               
instances in  the law that  Representative Eastman might  want to                                                               
look  into,  in  which  the witness  requirements  might  not  be                                                               
essential,  but this  was the  only issue  he had  looked at  for                                                               
purposes of HB 148.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
1:31:22 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE STUTES returned the gavel to Chair Claman.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
1:31:28 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
The committee took a brief at-ease at 1:31 p.m.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
1:31:55 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN opened public testimony on HB 148.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
1:32:27 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JOE  CONNOLLY, Photographer,  Chugach Peaks  Photography, offered                                                               
testimony  in support  of  HB 148.   He  said  that the  proposed                                                               
legislation  is  not  an  attack   on  marriage  or  designed  to                                                               
undermine it  in any way.   He expressed that it  would encourage                                                               
more people  to get  married and  make it  an easier  process for                                                               
people coming  from out-of-state.   He stated  that there  are 30                                                               
states  that   do  not  require  marriage   witnesses,  including                                                               
Democrat and Republican dominated states.   He expressed that the                                                               
economic impact  of weddings in  Alaska is more  significant than                                                               
might be  expected.  He said  that requiring two witnesses  to be                                                               
present is  an unfair  burden, and  awkward intrusion,  into what                                                               
these people intended  as a private and personal event.   He said                                                               
that the very  act of eloping is  to "get away from  it all," and                                                               
have  no  family  present  at a  small,  simple,  and  affordable                                                               
wedding.   He  stated  that  when people  come  to  Alaska for  a                                                               
destination wedding, they are looking  for solitude and something                                                               
more intimate and personal, not a large wedding.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. CONNOLLY  stated that as  mentioned by  Representative Claman                                                               
previously, hundreds of  people come from around  the world every                                                               
year to get married in Alaska.   He said he had just photographed                                                               
a wedding the  week before for a couple from  Australia, and they                                                               
had  to deal  with  the witness  issue at  that  time, which  was                                                               
problematic.   He  said  that  these couples  come  to Alaska  by                                                               
themselves with no friends or family,  they do not live in Alaska                                                               
or  know  anyone  in  Alaska,   but  they  still  must  find  two                                                               
witnesses.   He said  that social media,  an increase  in tourism                                                               
infrastructure,  and marketing  by the  state have  all increased                                                               
the number of people wanting to  come to Alaska to get married on                                                               
glaciers,  rocky  beaches  next   to  the  ocean,  waterfalls  in                                                               
rainforests, flowery meadows, and  other peaceful settings within                                                               
Alaska's scenery; all without strangers  intruding.  He expressed                                                               
that at no point has he had  anyone say to him, "We'd really like                                                               
it if you could bring a  couple of strangers to our wedding, we'd                                                               
really like  it if you  guys could go  find two random  people on                                                               
the side of the road and have them come watch us get married."                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR.  CONNOLLY stated  that there  are often  times where  he does                                                               
have to  bring strangers to  weddings to be witnesses,  and there                                                               
is no requirement  by the state to provide a  driver's license or                                                               
verification, all  the witness  has to  do is write  a name  on a                                                               
piece of paper, which  is not a reliable system.   He said that a                                                               
lot of  people want to get  married on a glacier,  but they often                                                               
have to pay  extra money to bring the two  witnesses, which makes                                                               
couples  less  inclined  to  have the  marriage  performed  on  a                                                               
glacier, so helicopter  companies make less money.   He said that                                                               
some couples might be turned away  and go to other states that do                                                               
not require  witnesses, such  as Montana,  to have  a destination                                                               
wedding performed.  He emphasized  that the economic impact these                                                               
destinations bring to Alaska is  substantial; the couples are not                                                               
only getting married,  they are staying in  hotels, renting cars,                                                               
eating at restaurants,  buying food at the  grocery stores, going                                                               
on whale watching tours, going  bear viewing at remote wilderness                                                               
lodges, and many other activities.   He expressed that attracting                                                               
more people to  Alaska is great for the  economy, businesses, and                                                               
people who  rely on tourism.   He said that  a lot of  the cruise                                                               
ship passengers  visiting Alaska spend  most of their  money with                                                               
the  cruise  ship  companies, such  as  Princess,  Carnival,  and                                                               
Holland  America, and  if smaller  locally owned  businesses were                                                               
better able to benefit from travel,  he thinks it would be a good                                                               
thing for everyone living in Alaska.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
1:37:06 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. CONNOLLY summarized that HB 148  would put Alaska into a more                                                               
competitive place  within the  destination wedding  market, which                                                               
is dominated by  states like Hawaii, Nevada, and  Florida that do                                                               
not  have  witness  requirements.   He  said  that  the  proposed                                                               
legislation  would  attract more  people  to  Alaska by  removing                                                               
regulatory burdens,  like requiring  two strangers to  be present                                                               
at a private event and would  create economic growth all over the                                                               
state in the  tourism industry.  He reiterated  that the proposed                                                               
legislation  is not  a  partisan issue,  as  both Republican  and                                                               
Democrat  states  do not  have  witness  requirements, and  those                                                               
states  do  not  have  increased   rates  of  divorce  or  issues                                                               
verifying the validity of marriages.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
1:38:36 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CIAN MULHERN,  Reverend, Celtic Ministries, offered  testimony in                                                               
support  of HB  148.   He  stated that  he has  been an  ordained                                                               
minister performing weddings for  approximately 21 years, and has                                                               
traveled to  many other states,  including Montana and  Texas, to                                                               
perform weddings where  no witnesses are required.   He said that                                                               
Alaska's destination wedding numbers  are growing every year, and                                                               
he thinks that HB 148 would  help to grow the destination wedding                                                               
industry considerably.   He said  that he  performs approximately                                                               
150  weddings  a  year,  and  around  90  percent  of  those  are                                                               
destination  weddings for  couples  traveling from  all over  the                                                               
world.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REV. MULHERN  said that he  was the officiant for  the Australian                                                               
couple's wedding  mentioned earlier by  Mr. Connolly, and  he had                                                               
to bring  a witness for  them.  He  expressed that the  result of                                                               
that  was a  stranger standing  there,  while the  couple had  an                                                               
intimate ceremony and  spoke their vows.  He  expressed that most                                                               
couples do not  know anyone when they come to  Alaska, and it can                                                               
be difficult  to find witnesses.   He  explained that he  has had                                                               
couples  who have  had to  go  to a  parking lot  and ask  random                                                               
travelers if they would be  their witnesses, and most couples are                                                               
not thrilled with having strangers  watching their wedding, as it                                                               
is somewhat  intrusive.   He said that  he performs  weddings for                                                               
the  service men  and women  of  Fort Wainwright  and Joint  Base                                                               
Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER),  and many of  these couples  are new                                                               
to Alaska  and have not  had a chance to  make friends or  get to                                                               
know  neighbors,  which  puts  the burden  back  on  the  wedding                                                               
officiant.   He said that  witnesses are not being used to verify                                                               
the identities  of couples or  the validity of marriages  and, in                                                               
fact, that is what the  Vital Statistics Department does when the                                                               
couple applies for the marriage license.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
1:41:11 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE STUTES expressed that she  was "curious as to what                                                               
Celtic Ministry is."                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
1:41:19 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REV. MULHERN replied that it means  he is a wedding officiant and                                                               
is ordained as clergy by the Baptist church.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
1:41:41 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ERIN   VELANDER,  Wedding   Planner,   Blomma  Designs,   offered                                                               
testimony  in  support of  HB  148.    She  stated that  all  her                                                               
business in the summer is from  couples coming to Alaska to elope                                                               
in  an adventurous  manner.   She said  that she  plans a  lot of                                                               
helicopter excursions and  hikes.  She expressed  that she thinks                                                               
the proposed legislation  would be great for  the tourism economy                                                               
in Alaska,  would benefit small  business owners in  Alaska, open                                                               
the  industry  up,  and  make  it  easier  for  couples  to  have                                                               
destination  weddings.   She stated  that most  couples who  book                                                               
with  her  spend anywhere  from  10  days  to several  months  in                                                               
Alaska, and they are engage in  many fun activities that feed the                                                               
economy and small businesses.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS. VELANDER  expressed that she has  been a part of  hundreds of                                                               
wedding ceremonies, and  there is a difference  between a wedding                                                               
ceremony  with hundreds  of people  in  a church,  and a  wedding                                                               
ceremony on  the side of  a mountain  with "just two  people, and                                                               
the person marrying  you."  She said that she  doesn't think that                                                               
an argument  can be  made as  to which type  of ceremony  is more                                                               
valid.   She stated  that if  two people want  to get  married in                                                               
Alaska  currently,   they  can  walk  to   the  Vital  Statistics                                                               
Department  or the  courthouse,  say three  sentences, sign  some                                                               
paperwork, and  be legally married.   She said that she  does not                                                               
think that  having two witnesses  validates, or  invalidates, the                                                               
process in any  way, and she thinks it makes  for a less personal                                                               
experience for  couples choosing  to get  married in  an intimate                                                               
setting.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
1:44:48 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN, after  ascertaining that there was no  one else who                                                               
wished to testify, closed public testimony on HB 148.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
1:44:57 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  EASTMAN expressed  that  he would  be curious  to                                                               
find  out  if  there  was   any  evidence  available  on  whether                                                               
witnesses have been  used in a positive informal  capacity in the                                                               
past for "error checking."                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
1:45:59 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN replied  that he had heard no  stories pertaining to                                                               
that  while  looking  into the  proposed  legislation;  the  most                                                               
frequent  scenario he  had encountered  was from  couples getting                                                               
married  in  large  group  settings,  who  had  not  figured  out                                                               
witnesses ahead  of time and had  to look for two  people to sign                                                               
the marriage certificate at the reception after the ceremony.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
1:46:37 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  CLAMAN  announced that  HB  148  would  be held  over  for                                                               
further review.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
1:47:00 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ADJOURNMENT                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
There being no further business before the committee, the House                                                                 
Judiciary Standing Committee meeting was adjourned at 1:47 p.m.                                                                 

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 148 v. M 4.29.2019.PDF HJUD 3/2/2020 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 3/4/2020 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 3/6/2020 1:00:00 PM
HB 148
HB 148 Sponsor Statement 2.28.2020.pdf HJUD 3/2/2020 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 3/4/2020 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 3/6/2020 1:00:00 PM
HB 148
HB 148 Sectional Analysis 2.11.2020.pdf HJUD 3/2/2020 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 3/4/2020 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 3/6/2020 1:00:00 PM
HSTA 2/20/2020 3:00:00 PM
HSTA 2/27/2020 3:00:00 PM
HB 148
HB 148 Supporting Document - Holland America Princess Letter 2.18.2020.pdf HJUD 3/2/2020 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 3/4/2020 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 3/6/2020 1:00:00 PM
HB 148
HB 148 Fiscal Note DHSS-BVS 2.28.2020.pdf HJUD 3/2/2020 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 3/4/2020 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 3/6/2020 1:00:00 PM
HB 148