Same-sex tourism still all the rage in CNMI


Same-sex tourism that flourished in the CNMI back in 2016 is still all the rage and only continues to grow.

Since 2015 when same-sex marriage was legalized in the U.S. and its territories, there has been a significant jump in the number of same-sex marriages on Saipan, majority of which involved Chinese tourists.

Today, Chinese tourists still continue to venture out to the CNMI to tie the knot, but so have other ethnicities such as Russians, Korean, and even Bangladeshi.

According to data obtained from the Saipan Mayor’s Office, there have been a total of 117 marriage licenses issued from January to June of this year. Of the 117 licenses, 90 were issued to same sex couples.

From the 90 same sex couples that received marriage licenses from the Saipan Mayor’s Office, 61 were female couples and 29 were male couples and majority were Chinese tourists.

According to a previous interview with Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang, he had the privilege to marry a same sex couple from Bangladesh this year on top of the numerous Chinese couples he performed marriages for.

Same sex marriage continues to thrive also despite the recent increase in marriage license fees that was implemented early this year.

According to a previous article on the Saipan Tribune, the increase is embodied in House Bill 20-128 that was passed into law in mid-April 2018.

Accordingly, nonresidents will now be charged $250 to obtain a marriage license and residents will be charged $130.

All revenue raised from marriage license fees will go to the Saipan Mayor’s Office account.

Apatang says the change has been nothing but positive for his office.

Apatang said his office has seen an increase in the number of marriages they perform in a day and the community has been receptive to the increases.

“As a matter of fact, we increased the number of marriages every day. Instead of three and four every day, we increased it from five to six; that’s more revenue for us,” he said.

Apatang said the change has been a long time coming. “I think it is about time that we raised the fees for marriages. We perform a lot of marriages here in the mayor’s office and it was only $50 for many years. I’m glad the Legislature finally realized that we need to increase our fees,” he said.

The Saipan Mayor’s Office will use the added revenue to continue its beautification projects in the CNMI and other projects run by the Saipan Mayor’s Office.

Same-sex marriages and the number of marriages performed are only expected to increase as the year progresses.

The upward trend of same-sex marriages started out with the Saipan Mayor’s Office officiating 12 same-sex marriages in 2015. Half of the same-sex marriage certificates issued that year were for Chinese tourists.

In 2016, there was a significant jump in same-sex marriages as 30 marriage licenses where issued, 25 of which were issued to same-sex Chinese couples.

The Saipan Mayor’s Office issued a total of 88 marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2017. A total of 63 marriage licenses were issued to female couples and a total of 25 marriage licenses were issued to male couples in 2017 and majority of which were Chinese tourists.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at

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