Sunday, February 18, 2007

Alaska State Representative John Coghill Introduces Bill To Outlaw Same Sex Benefits By Public Sector

During the past week, Rep. John Coghill (R-North Pole) took the next step toward a constitutional amendment blocking same-sex partners from receiving the employment benefits offered to married spouses by introducing HJR 9. Original report from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. (Photo of Coghill at left courtesy of

On Monday (February 12th, 2007), Coghill introduced a resolution that, if approved by two-thirds of the Legislature and a majority of voters, would change the section of the Alaska Constitution dealing with marriage. Coghill’s resolution, House Joint Resolution 9, would add the language, “No other union is similarly situated to a marriage between a man and a woman and, therefore, a marriage between a man and a woman is the only union that shall be valid or recognized in this State and to which the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage shall be extended or assigned” to the 1998 amendment defining marriage as being between only one man and one woman.

In February 2006, Coghill introduced a similar resolution, but it never got out of the House Judiciary Committee, which got swamped with oil and gas legislation. He believes it will get more attention this year.

Ten other House members (all Republicans, no Democrats), including Rep. Mike Kelly of Fairbanks, are co-sponsoring the resolution. In a news release sent Wednesday, Kelly argued the Supreme Court had misinterpreted the state Constitution and encroached on the executive and legislative branches of government. “Passing this constitutional amendment will correct the court’s bizarre interpretation of the Constitution,” Kelly said, “spelling it out even more clearly for them.” The other co-sponsors are all heroes and also deserve to be mentioned by name:

Rep John Harris (R-Valdez)
Rep Vic Kohring (R-Wasilla)
Rep Peggy Wilson (R-Wrangell)
Rep Bob Lynn (R-Anchorage)
Rep Carl Gatto (R-Palmer)
Rep Nancy Dahlstrom (R-Eagle River)
Rep Mark Neumann (R-Matanuska/Susitna)
Rep Bill Stoltze (R-Chugiak)
Rep Bill Thomas (R-Haines)

In 2005, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that same-sex partners deserved the same benefits as married spouses under the constitution’s equal protection clause, even though the couples couldn’t legally marry. The clause states that “all persons are equal and entitled to equal rights.” The state responded by recently starting to offer employment benefits to certain same-sex partners of state employees.

Click HERE to see the full text of the Alaska Supreme Court's 30-page original decision from October 2005 in PDF format.

State lawmakers, in a special session in late 2006, tried to block the state from offering the benefits and set up an advisory vote so the public could weigh in. That vote is scheduled for April 3rd, and is meant to advise lawmakers on whether to support a constitutional amendment. The language in the advisory vote refers to blocking the state, municipalities, or subdivisions of the state from offering the benefits.

Democrats predictably are supplying the opposition. Rep. David Guttenberg (D-Fairbanks) opposes changing the constitution. “Why are we denying health care for more Alaskans when we should be expanding health care?” he said Thursday. Guttenberg also criticized the advisory vote, which is expected to cost the state $1.2 million. HB 122, sponsored by Rep. Mike Doogan (D-Anchorage) and co-sponsored by 11 Democrats, would block the advisory vote from happening without a specific appropriation by the Legislature. The bill hasn’t moved out of the House Finance Committee.

Rep. Mike Kelly fears that if the advisory vote is quashed or is unfavorable, same-sex benefits will become encased in stone. He urges Alaskans to get out and vote in April. “The Legislature has members who would love to either duck this issue, or are OK with the court’s action,” Kelly said. “Without the advisory vote passing, HJR 9 will not be approved by this Legislature.” The full text of HJR 9 appears below:

Alaska residents click HERE to find out how to contact your lawmakers and express your support for HJR 9.


01 Proposing an amendment to the section of the Constitution of the State of Alaska

02 relating to marriage


04 * Section 1. Article I, sec. 25, Constitution of the State of Alaska, is amended to read:

05 Section 25. Marriage and related limitations. To be valid or recognized in

06 this State, a marriage may exist only between one man and one woman. No other

07 union is similarly situated to a marriage between a man and a woman and,

08 therefore, a marriage between a man and a woman is the only union that shall be

09 valid or recognized in this State and to which the rights, benefits, obligations,

10 qualities, or effects of marriage shall be extended or assigned.

11 * Sec. 2. The amendment proposed by this resolution shall be placed before the voters of the

12 state at the next general election in conformity with art. XIII, sec. 1, Constitution of the State

13 of Alaska, and the election laws of the state.

Commentary: Rep. Guttenberg's remark about "expanding health care" is spin. Mandating extension of marital benefits to the domestic partners of gay public employees is extending benefits on the public dime regardless of need. Public assistance was intended only for those in need, not for those who just happen to be the race du jour or the gender du jour or the protected group du jour of the moment. Affirmative action lost its credibility because it was extended to all minorities regardless of need. When you give the domestic partners of gay public employees marital benefits simply because they're gay, you're asking society to subsidize perversion. I don't care how "dignified" of a relationship a gay couple might have, homosexuality is still inherently ungodly, unnatural, and unacceptable. I'll leave them alone when possible, deal with them civilly when I must deal with them, but I'll be damned if I'll subsidize them.

It is essential that we get out to vote on the Advisory Initiative on April 3rd. The proposed initiative is already posted on the Alaska Division of Elections website. Here is the specific language:

QUESTION: Shall the legislature adopt a proposed amendment to the state constitution to be considered by the voters at the 2008 general election that would prohibit the state, or a municipality or other subdivision of the state, from providing employment benefits to same-sex partners of public employees and to same-sex partners of public employee retirees?

Note that the prohibition would apply only to public employees. Private-sector employees, even if operating as contractors for public employers, would NOT be affected.

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