My Turn: Vote 'Yes' on April 3 ballot

Send a message: Alaskans won't tolerate judges legislating from the bench

Posted: Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Alaska Constitution clearly states that "all political power is inherent in the people." Last October, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in favor of granting employee benefits to same-sex couples, in effect, undermining this constitutional provision and establishing its own will as having precedent over the will of the people.

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By deliberately ignoring the clear message sent by Alaska voters in 1998, when they overwhelming amended the constitution to read that "a marriage may only exist between a man and a woman," the state Supreme Court overstepped its bounds. The key to correcting this misdeed and reestablishing the constitutionally guaranteed series of checks and balances is the April 3 advisory vote on same-sex benefits.

The people of Alaska need to once again remind the Legislature that they will not tolerate judges legislating from the bench. A "Yes" vote on the April ballot will give legislators the extra push needed to again amend the constitution.

Some objections to the vote are based on three different ideas:

1. The advisory vote is estimated to cost $1 million; the Legislature can find a better purpose for the money.

The Supreme Court has ordered Alaskans to pay for a benefit that the majority of people disagree with philosophically. Once the state requires same-sex benefits for partners of state employees, it is only a few more legal steps until private businesses are forced to provide the same benefits lest they "discriminate." Such a broad-reaching policy decision deserves to be openly debated in a broad public venue, and that debate costs money. I believe there is no better way for Alaska's money to be spent than by furthering the will of the people.

2. Objection to same-sex benefits is a result of religious bigotry.

The issue at hand is not the morality of homosexuality, but rather the court's deliberate misinterpretation of the will of the people of Alaska. The people voted that a same-sex union is not the same as a marriage. Married couples commit to each other for life, and with that level of commitment, the state recognizes the married couple's right to benefits for spouses. The court set no mandates for proof of commitment other than a state employee's designation on a form.

3. A special election will weary already skeptical voters.

Weariness is not an excuse for apathy. I am weary after every session, but the people elect me to support and defend the constitution, and fighting for this advisory vote does exactly that. I am looking to the people of Alaska to once again cast a vote in defense of marriage and reclaim the rights usurped by the Supreme Court.

If Alaskans allow this decision to pass without objection, we will be setting a precedent that allows the Supreme Court to disregard the will of the people of Alaska.

• Rep. John Coghill is a Republican from North Pole.

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