When I hear something said by people whose wisdom and experience I respect, I listen. One of the things I've heard again and again from such people is that the Alaska Constitution is one of the finest in the nation; that it's considered a model document for the structuring of civil lives.
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One of this constitution's greatest strengths, it's said, is its simplicity. As designed, it's concerned not with minutia, but rather with defining the fundamental and timeless values of our society - liberty and equality - and placing them at the center of government.
In the 51 years since it was ratified, our constitution has retained most of its original simplicity and elegance, even as our society has become more complex. This is a testament to its strength, and to the strengths of those fundamental beliefs at its heart.
To maintain the Alaska Constitution's strength, it's critical that we consider carefully any proposal to change it. If we accept as a central truth that the purpose of the document is, as stated in the preamble, "...to secure and transmit to succeeding generations our heritage of political, civil, and religious liberty", we must make sure that we amend it only to further that purpose, rather than to detract from it.
So what do we do about a proposed amendment to deny benefits to same-sex partners of public employees? Such a change isn't a clarification or an extension of rights or protections for individuals - in fact, it would explicitly restrict those rights and protections: "pursuit of happiness," "enjoyment of the rewards of their own industry", and "equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law" as outlined in the Declaration of Rights. It would also restrict the freedom of municipalities and other entities to exercise their own protection of citizens' rights.
If adopted, this amendment would damage the very core of our constitution. Wouldn't it be a better choice -- a more Alaskan choice, which takes into account our central values of liberty, equality, and privacy - to keep that elegant document as it is? That way it can continue to be true to its purpose, which is to guide our decisions so that all of us - family, neighbors, those with whom we agree and disagree - can be sure of the fact that we are equally protected under the law.
Let's keep our Constitution simple and strong: Vote "no" on April 3.
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