The couple, who have four children, disclosed the news to a small circle of friends in an e-mail sent under both their names, according to Kalee Kreider, a Gore spokeswoman.
“After a great deal of thought we have decided to separate,” the Gores wrote. “This is very much a mutual and mutually supportive decision that we have made together, following a process of long and careful consideration. We ask for respect for our privacy and that of our family, and we do not intend to comment further.”
Al Gore, 62, was vice president in Bill Clinton’s administration and sought the presidency in 2000. He lost to Republican George W. Bush in a disputed election in which Gore won the popular vote and Bush won the Electoral College.
After the election, Gore focused his energies on raising public awareness of threats posed by climate change, and he shared in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
The couple met while each was in high school in the Washington area and married on May 19, 1970. They exchanged a much-publicized kiss on stage at the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles where Gore was nominated for the presidency.
Tipper Gore, 61, was urged by some Democrats to run for the U.S. Senate in 2002 from the couple’s home state of Tennessee. She decided to forego the race.
Al Gore had represented Tennessee in the U.S. House, first winning his seat in 1976, and then was elected senator in 1984. He unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988; Clinton selected him as his running mate four years later.
Tipper Gore gained national attention in the mid-1980s for the concerns she expressed about violent or sexually explicit music lyrics. She was a co-founder of the Parents Music Resource Center, which advocated warning labels on music. In recent years, much of her work has involved mental illness prevention and treatment.
The Los Angeles Times reported in April that the couple had purchased a five-bedroom home near Santa Barbara, California, for more than $8.8 million.