Alaska AG: Same-sex spouse eligible for oil-wealth check

Alaska’s attorney general on Friday, Nov. 22 said a woman who alleged she was wrongly denied a check from the state’s oil-wealth fund because of her same-sex marriage is eligible.

Kevin Clarkson, in a since-deleted tweet, called Denali Nicole Smith’s lawsuit “pointless.” He said her 2019 application is listed as “Eligible – Not Paid” and hasn’t been paid because she has not provided a correct address. “Big non-issue here,” the tweet said.

A related tweet also was deleted.

Department of Law spokeswoman Cori Mills said by email that the department “decided we need to double check our facts before posting and make sure we are clearly talking about the correct years.” She hoped to have further details later Friday.

Attached to Smith’s federal lawsuit is an Aug. 23 denial letter from the state agency that determines eligibility for Permanent Fund Dividends. The letter cites provisions of state law barring recognition of same-sex marriage and says the denial was based on the fact Smith was “absent from Alaska 206 days during 2018 accompanying her same sex spouse.”

In late 2014, a federal judge deemed Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court gave same-sex couples nationally the right to marry. The state has been barred from enforcing provisions of law cited in the letter, said Heather Gardner, an attorney for Smith.


The lawsuit says Smith is an Alaska resident who last year married and moved with military wife Miranda Murphy to Florida, where Murphy is stationed. The lawsuit identifies Murphy as an Alaska resident.

It claims that representatives of the Permanent Fund Dividend Division told Smith that if she were married to a man, she would not be denied a check. This year’s check was $1,606.

State law provides allowable absences under which an individual could still be eligible for a check.

Gardner said the lawsuit is being brought under a provision of federal law that does not require that one exhaust administrative remedies.