Some members of the state Legislature want to put our Constitutional rights at risk through Senate Joint Resolution 20 and House Joint Resolution 32. These resolutions attack equal protection under the law for Alaskans by putting our civil rights up for a popular vote. They threaten every minority with the argument that if the majority wants to discriminate against a minority, then let it happen.
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This year Alaska commemorates the 50th anniversary of the drafting of our Constitution. This is a time of pride as we celebrate a document seen by many as the model for state constitutions. The preamble says our constitution was written "to secure and transmit to succeeding generations our heritage of political, civil and religious liberty." Article one states that "all persons are equal and entitled to equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law."
That's right - all persons. Not just the majority. Not just those who believe as we do, but everyone!
This country was founded by political and religious refugees who fled England to escape the persecution of a majority who believed they were morally and religiously wrong. This is the very foundation of who we are as a nation. We established a government with the express purpose of protecting minority rights from majority discrimination. These are the principles that brave Americans have fought and died for since independence.
With these great and noble ideals in mind, we are ashamed to hear proposals to amend Alaska's Constitution so that it can deprive gay, lesbian and bisexual Alaskans of their civil rights. Alaskans created this document to preserve freedom, and yet some want to change it to discriminate against a minority.
We are ashamed that our state government is devoting time and money to find ways to deprive Alaskans of equal protection under the law. We cannot understand what would motivate anyone to change a document that was written to secure civil liberties just so it can deny those liberties to certain people. We are even more dismayed that the effort is to deny health care. What next? Will we prohibit gay Alaskans from state employment? Will we round them up and intern them? Will we start restricting liberties of other groups outside the mainstream, all in the name of majority rule?
It is ironic that the issue of health care benefits for partners of same sex couples only arose because Alaskans forbid them the right to marry. Because we made it illegal for same-sex couples to marry, the Alaska Supreme Court unanimously said that denying them equal benefits was a violation of equal protection under the law. The proposed solution by some legislators? Change the constitution to allow discrimination.
This proposal violates the vital core principles Americans and Alaskans hold dear. We call on Alaskans everywhere to reject these resolutions, not because you agree with a particular lifestyle but because you believe everyone should be treated equally. We ask you to support equal rights for all people, regardless of whether you agree with them. We beg you to think about what is being proposed. If we do not stand up for the equal rights of minorities, we may one day find there is no one to stand up for us.
Marsha Buck and Jonathan Anderson are members of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Juneau.
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