My Turn: Marriage resolution runs counter to Alaska principles

Posted: Monday, March 28, 2005

On Wednesday morning, at 8:30, March 9, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard Senate Joint Resolution 10, sponsored by Sen. Fred Dyson. The title of the resolution is "Support Federal Marriage Amendment" and it is counterintuitive, intellectually dishonest, and grounded in bad politics. The resolution articulates a myriad of reasons for the Alaska Legislature to support a narrowly defined definition of marriage and urges Congress to approve the Marriage Protection Amendment. The former piece is duplicative and runs counter to the most Alaskan of core principles, liberty, privacy, and the right to be let alone. The latter is politically alarming and legally problematic.

The Alaska Constitution currently restricts marriage to one man and one woman. While I vehemently disagree with this amendment and its foundational beliefs, it serves to support my argument here: The current resolution is unnecessary and misleading. Marriage is and historically has been a states' rights issue. A resolution reiterating Alaska's stance on what is already poor law is bad politics and moral posturing, nothing more. With Alaska's position on the issue already well crystallized, I can think of a host of issues our legislators can better spend their time considering, and I encourage Sen. Dyson and his colleagues to do the same.

As for the Federal Marriage Amendment, there could be no sadder moment in American politics then the day this nation would elect to roll back the clock on human rights and pass judgment on whether and how an individual loves. Our president fears so-called "activist judges" but in his rallying cry ignores the constitutional principles of equality and liberty that he is bound to support. Our elected leaders would be better served if they recognized that the true threat to our country lies not in our judges, but in officials who believe moral self-righteousness is grounds for legislating intolerance. SJR10 proposes no less than a dramatic overhaul of the singular guiding document in our nation's history. To amend it now by passing restrictive, discriminatory legislation impedes upon states' rights and sets a dangerous precedent.

Alaska's position in the context of our national history suggests it is this very ability to lead our lives with minimal government involvement that makes us unique. Sen. Dyson would have us sacrifice that uniqueness to score political points. His position is an untenable one. Any entertainment of this resolution has the dual effect of eroding states' rights while simultaneously reaffirming adherence to discriminatory legislation. Committee members who understand this will exercise principled leadership and professional tenacity by allowing SJR10 to dissolve as quickly as it appeared.

Our legislators need to take a step back from the moral war our President is so keen on waging against loving individuals who desire nothing more than to lead lives and build healthy families. Alaska's legislators have better to do.

• Janell Hafner, an attorney in Juneau, is a steering committee member of the Alaska Women's Lobby.

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