Same-Sex Benefits (SJR20 and HJR32) Sponsor Statement
Dear Eagles and Friends:
Below is a copy of the Sponsor statement from Senator Ralph Seekins forSJR20, the same-sex marriage benefits bill. Keep up the phone calls and emails to the legislators, especially focus onSenator Gary Stevens, Rep. Paul Seaton and members of the House JudiciaryCommittee and Senate Finance Committee. Contact information is listed below.
One more important item is HB272, the Poker Room bill. Senate JudiciaryCommittee has scheduled a hearing for this bill at 8:30 AM on Thursday,March 23. Please contact members of this committee and tell them to vote noon this bill.
Working for the family,Debbie JoslinPresident, Eagle Forum Alaska
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"The Constitution was conceived, written and approved by the people. Itbelongs to the people – not to the courts. Clearly, the right to clarify itsmeaning when challenged by the courts belongs to the people."- Sen. Seekins
Senate Joint Resolution 20 is presented to allow the people to address afundamental question that has been the subject of a number of court casesdating back to the early 1990s. These cases challenged Alaska’s right toreserve marriage to the union of one man and one woman and thereby torestrict the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities and effects ofmarriage to legally married Alaskans.
The legislature believed the matter was settled in 1996 when it passed whatis commonly called the Alaska Defense of Marriage Act. 1 This Act providedthat in Alaska a marriage is between one man and one woman. Furthermore, theAct specified that Alaska would not recognize foreign marriages that are nototherwise legal under Alaska law and that benefits of marriage extend onlyto legally married Alaskans. 2
Then, in February 1998, an Anchorage Superior Court judge ruled that, aswritten, Alaska's Constitution provides a fundamental right for same-sexcouples to marriage. 3 The Court ordered further hearings to determinewhether a compelling state interest could be found to deny same-sex marriagein the Alaska Marriage Code.
As a result, a significant number of Alaskans believed the Court hadtrespassed into the people's prerogative. Consequently they sought astronger defense of marriage through a constitutional amendment. Theyreasoned that only through a constitutional amendment could the matter beresolved with any finality. A super majority of the legislature 4 agreedand a proposition was placed on the 1998 general election ballot.
In November of 1998 Alaska's people voted – by a substantial margin 5 - toamend their Constitution. What is commonly called the Marriage Amendmentreads:
Section 1.25 – Marriage. To be valid or recognized in this State, a marriagemay exist only between one man and one woman.
It was generally believed adoption of the Marriage Amendmentconstitutionally reserved marriage to the union of one man and one woman andtherefore the pathway to the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities andeffects of marriage was closed to anyone who was not legally married.
Seven years later, in October of 2005, the Alaska State Supreme Courtcorrectly noted that the text of the Marriage Amendment effectivelyprohibits same-sex domestic partners from marrying in Alaska and that iteffectively denies recognition in Alaska to foreign marriages betweensame-sex couples. 6
However, the Court also held that the Marriage Amendment does not explicitlyaddress the topic of spousal benefits. In fact, the Court went so far as tosay, "spousal limitations in benefit programs are unconstitutional, and theyare invalid only to the extent they deny benefits to persons who areabsolutely precluded from becoming eligible for those benefits (same-sexunions), even though their domestic relationship is not legal."
To many Alaskans, the Court's reasoning conflicts with their ownunderstanding of what the Marriage Amendment would accomplish when they wentto the polls in 1998. Their conception was that if marriage was restrictedto one man and one woman, only legally married Alaskans would be eligiblefor spousal benefits.
None believed the Amendment would ever be used to rule, as the Court did,that spousal limitations vis-à-vis benefit programs are "unconstitutional".None believed that the people themselves – by voting for the MarriageAmendment – forced the Court to treat same-sex couples as if they arelegally married, as the Court now asserts. 7 None believed it would ever benecessary to revisit this issue.
The Constitution was conceived, written and approved by the people. Itbelongs to the people – not to the courts. Clearly, the right to clarify itsmeaning when challenged by the courts belongs to the people. Senate JointResolution 20 allows the people themselves to determine whether or not theyintended in 1998 – and still intend today – to confine the rights, benefits,obligations, qualities and effects of marriage to legally married Alaskans.
1 Senate Bill 308 – 19th Alaska State Legislature.
2 Sec. 25.05.011. Civil Contract.
Marriage is a civil contract entered into by one man and one woman thatrequires both a license and solemnization. The man and the woman must eachbe at least one of the following:18 years of age or older and otherwise capable;qualified for a license under AS 25.05.071; ora member of the armed forces of the United States while on active duty.A person may not be joined in marriage in this state until a license hasbeen obtained for that purpose as provided in this chapter. A marriageperformed in this state is not valid without solemnization as provided inthis chapter. (§ 1 ch 58 SLA 1963; am § 9 ch 245 SLA 1970; am § 92 ch 127SLA 1974; am § 1 ch 28 SLA 1975; am § 1 ch 21 SLA 1996)Sec. 25.05.013. Same Sex Marriages.
A marriage entered into by persons of the same sex, either under common lawor under statute, that is recognized by another state or foreignjurisdiction is void in this state, and contractual rights granted by virtueof the marriage, including its termination, are unenforceable in this state.A same-sex relationship may not be recognized by the state as being entitledto the benefits of marriage. (§ 2 ch 21 SLA 1996).
3 Brause and Dugan v. State of Alaska. This case was dismissed followingpassage of the Marriage Amendment.
4 A 2/3 majority of the legislature is required to place a constitutionalamendment on the ballot.
5 A 69% majority voted in favor of amending the State's Constitution.
6 ACLU v. State & Municipality of Anchorage (10/28/2005) sp-5950.
7 Footnote 38 to the ACLU decision states in pertinent part: "We recognizethat the benefits became discriminatory only after the legislature acted in1996 and 1998 and the electorate adopted the Marriage Amendment in 1998."
House Judiciary Committee:
Rep. Lesil McGuire Rep_Lesil_McGuire@legis.state.ak.us 800 365 2995
Rep. Tom Anderson Rep_Tom_Anderson@legis.state.ak.us 800 465 4939
Rep. John Coghill, JR. Rep_John_Coghill@legis.state.ak.us 877 465 3719
Rep. Pete Kott Rep_Pete_Kott@legis.state.ak.us 800 861 5688
Rep. Peggy Wilson Rep_Peggy_Wilson@legis.state.ak.us 800 686 3824
Rep. Les Gara Rep_Les_Gara@legis.state.ak.us 888 465 2647
Rep. Max Gruenberg, Jr. Rep_Max_Gruenberg@legis.state.ak.us 866 465 4940
member of Senate Finance Committee:
Sen. Lyda Green (R), Co-Chair(907) 465-6600Senator_Lyda_Green@legis.state.ak.us
Sen. Gary Wilkin (R), Co-Chair(907) 465-3709 Senator_Gary_Wilkin@legis.state.ak.us
Sen. Con Bunde (R), Vice-Chair(907) 465-4843Senator_Con_Bunde@legis.state.ak.us
Sen. Fred Dyson (R)(907) 465-2199Senator_Fred_Dyson@legis.state.ak.us
Sen. Bert Stedman (R)(907) 465-3873Senator_Bert_Stedman@legis.state.ak.us
Sen. Lyman Hoffman (D)(907) 465-4453Senator_Lyman_Hoffman@legis.state.ak.us
Sen. Donny Olson (D)(907) 465-3707mailto:465-3707Senator_Donny_Olson@legis.state.ak.us
Written Testimony to the Senate Finance Committee
President, Eagle Forum Alaska
Testimony for SJR20
Senate Finance Committee Hearing
March 9, 2006
In 1998 the people of Alaska voted by a majority of almost 70% to add to the state constitution that marriage is only between one man and one woman. In October 2005 the Alaska Supreme Court was asked to decide whether homosexual couples were being discriminated against because they were denied one of the privileges of a married couple. The answer was clearly no. Our constitution stated that marriage is something that can only be entered by one man and one woman. The Alaska Supreme Court decided that case in favor of the plaintiffs based on their own personal opinions. Their decision was in direct violation of the will of the people of Alaska and our Constitution. The question before the legislature today is whether or not to allow the people of Alaska to have a chance to clarify what was put into the constitution in 1998. We thought the wording was clear but the court ignored the marriage amendment. There is ample evidence to believe that the people of Alaska do not agree with the court. You, our elected representatives in this government have been appointed to represent the will of the people and as such we ask you to allow us to weigh in on this subject. The people who are testifying against this bill are not hurt by its passage. They will have the right to voice their opinions on the November ballot too.
You are being told that the issue here is discrimination because of the equal protection clause. That is clearly wrong. No one is being discriminated against. Our society has always held that marriage is for the public good. Marriage has been the preferred relationship since the beginning of man. It is in marriage that children are born and reared in the best way possible for society. Marriage is for the good of our children and should be protected along with its rights, privileges and responsibilities. Children raised by a mother and father are healthier are healthier and happier.
State statute holds that certain criteria must be met before issuing a license to practice medicine or law in this state. Am I being discriminated because I am not allowed a license to practice law or medicine? Certainly not. My equal protection is not being infringed on. I do not possess the qualifications for these licenses and neither do homosexual couples possess the qualifications of marriage nor should they be entitled to its benefits. That is not discrimination; it is merely a fact.
This legislature is duty bound to uphold the will of the people. The people spoke loud and clear in 1998 and we wish to have the opportunity to reiterate what we said then. Please pass SJR20 and allow us that right.