Same-sex benefits don't create fiscal problems

Posted: Sunday, April 01, 2007

The state of Alaska has scheduled a special statewide advisory vote for April 3, to ask voters their opinion on whether the Alaska Constitution should be amended to prohibit the state and all municipalities and other subdivisions of the state from providing employment benefits to same-sex partners of their employees.

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Whether the $1.2 million the state is spending to conduct this non-binding "opinion poll" is a wise use of precious state dollars is a significant question. Of even greater concern to me is the fact that the people of Alaska are being asked to consider amending our constitution to mandate discrimination in the way we pay our public employees. The U.S. Constitution states that "no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States ... nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

This advisory vote is not about same-sex marriage. Our state constitution has already been amended to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. What we are being asked to vote on now, is whether we are willing to abridge the employment rights of some of our citizens by making it mandatory that the state and its political subdivisions provide less compensation to some public employees than to their co-workers for performing the same job.

Contrary to what some would have us believe, providing equal benefits for same-sex partners does not create fiscal problems for benefit programs. Here in Alaska, such entities as the municipalities of Anchorage and Juneau, the university system and a number of private companies have been providing equal benefits to same-sex partners and married spouses of their employees for some time. The financial affect on employers is negligible and providing equal benefits allows employers to recruit and retain some excellent employees they might otherwise not be able to attract or retain. A workplace characterized by fairness, equity and respect is good for everyone.

I will be voting "no" on April 3. I believe a no vote says no to requiring unequal pay for equal work; no to taking a step backward on civil rights; no to allowing the state to dictate to our municipalities and university how they may compensate their own employees; and no to wasting state funds on future advisory votes that resolve nothing.

Rep. Andrea Doll

Juneau



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