For nearly 15 years, my husband and I have enjoyed the benefits associated with my husband's employment with the state of Alaska. These benefits have provided us financial security and peace of mind and have been an important offset to the high cost of living here in Juneau. It is difficult for me to comprehend why some of my fellow Alaskans would wish to deny these same benefits for other state employees in committed relationships, such as my husband and I share.
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But denying some Alaskans equal protection under our state constitution is exactly what is planned by a proposed constitutional amendment that a handful of state legislators are pushing. The senate version, Senate Joint Resolution 20, and the house version, House Joint Resolution 32, are currently winding their way through the legislative-committee process.
Last October, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that the state must provide domestic partner benefits to eligible state workers. The decision was based on the right of equal protection under the law. The proposed amendment attempts to reverse the Court's decision. Evidently, the supporters of the amendment believe that if you're not married, you aren't quite as equal as the blissfully wedded amongst us are.
While supporters of the amendment believe this is an issue of, once again, defending the institution of marriage, I believe this is an issue of equality and nondiscrimination. The Court wisely and very appropriately ruled to protect the rights of a minority group - a principle that is at the heart of our democratic form of government.
This issue is not about protecting my marriage. How would my marriage be strengthened if the state constitution is rewritten to deprive some state workers equal protections under that constitution?
Nor is this an issue about letting the people vote. How do you think the majority of voters in Alabama or Mississippi would have voted on school segregation in 1956?
I am very proud of the fact that this country and the state of Alaska have constitutions that protect the rights of minority groups, and that we have judges in our court systems that will uphold those constitutional rights. This is an issue of fairness in a democratic society. To seek to amend the state constitution to deprive Alaskans of equal protection under the constitution is simply wrong.
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