Legislature(2015 - 2016)GRUENBERG 120

04/01/2016 01:00 PM JUDICIARY

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Audio Topic
02:07:56 PM Start
02:08:46 PM HB236
03:10:13 PM Confirmation Hearing(s):
03:19:58 PM HJR29
04:01:08 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Delayed to 2:00 p.m. Today --
+ Confirmation Hearings: TELECONFERENCED
- Alaska Judicial Council
- Board of Governors of the Alaska Bar
- Commission on Judicial Conduct
- Select Committee on Legislative Ethics
- Violent Crimes Compensation Board
+= HJR 29 CALL FED. CONSTITUTIONAL CONV:TERM LIMITS TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Public & Invited Testimony --
*+ HB 339 MOTOR VEHICLE ARSON TELECONFERENCED
<Bill Hearing Canceled>
-- Public & Invited Testimony --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
+= HB 236 RIGHT TO REFUSE TO SOLEMNIZE MARRIAGE TELECONFERENCED
Moved HB 236 Out of Committee
-- Public & Invited Testimony --
          HB 236-RIGHT TO REFUSE TO SOLEMNIZE MARRIAGE                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
2:08:46 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LEDOUX announced that the  first order of business would be                                                               
HOUSE BILL NO. 236, "An Act relating to marriage solemnization."                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LEDOUX opened public testimony.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
2:09:11 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JOSHUA  DECKER,  Executive  Director,  American  Civil  Liberties                                                               
Union of Alaska (ACLU), said  that the bill offers something good                                                               
as  well  as  inadvertently   dramatically  changes  the  balance                                                               
between religious  freedom and  sex non-discrimination  laws that                                                               
have existed  in the country for  62 years.  On  the frontend, he                                                               
advised, the ACLU strongly supports  the First Amendment right of                                                               
clergy  to  choose  to  solemnize   or  not  solemnize  marriages                                                               
comporting  with   their  faith,  and  that   the  ACLU's  letter                                                               
(directed to the  committee) cited examples of the  ACLU going to                                                               
court to vindicate  one's practice of religion  which it averages                                                               
approximately one  lawsuit per month.   He related  that concerns                                                               
of the  ACLU are that  the bill disturbs a  long-standing balance                                                               
point  between the  right  of individuals  to  pray and  practice                                                               
their faith  with the right  of the  public to be  treated fairly                                                               
and  free from  discrimination in  public spaces.   He  explained                                                               
that  since  the original  Civil  Rights  Act, society  struck  a                                                               
balance  between  private  spaces  and  public  spaces  and  when                                                               
organizations open themselves  up to the public, it  has to treat                                                               
all comers fairly,  and HB 236 undoes  this carefully constructed                                                               
balance.   He commented that  there is no  less of a  defender of                                                               
freedom  of religion  than United  States  Supreme Court  Justice                                                               
Antonin Scalia, who  26 years ago wrote about this  balance.  Mr.                                                               
Decker paraphrased  the following, "we  want to ensure  that laws                                                               
of general  applicability that apply  to everyone  equally should                                                               
in fact apply to everyone equally  -- and that we should not lose                                                               
this equilibrium  point away from religious  organizations."  Mr.                                                               
Decker  then  referred   to  his  letter  pages   4-5,  that  its                                                               
suggestions would allow the bill  to "pass muster," in clarifying                                                               
the  right  of clergy  and  religious  organizations to  practice                                                               
their faith when it is not open  to the public, and when they are                                                               
open to the public they should treat all comers equally.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
2:13:00 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN  requested his  definition of a  church being                                                               
"open to the  public."  Obviously, he offered  people are members                                                               
of a church and it is open  to membership, and he could not think                                                               
of any churches that wouldn't welcome a visitor.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
2:13:45 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  DECKER, in  response to  Representative Lynn,  said that  by                                                               
open to the public, the  American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska                                                               
(ACLU) means open  to the public in the secular  space.  Churches                                                               
open to  anyone who  would like to  participate in  the religious                                                               
service  are   exempt  from   non-discrimination  laws   in  that                                                               
capacity.   He  referred to  yesterday's testimony  regarding the                                                               
Shrine of St. Therese in Juneau  wherein it rents out event space                                                               
open  to  the  public  for  secular purposes.    For  example,  a                                                               
Lutheran couple renting out part of  the banquet hall space for a                                                               
secular wedding reception.  He  explained that that is the ACLU's                                                               
definition of "open  to the public," such that being  open to all                                                               
comers in the secular non-religious sphere.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
2:14:53 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  LEDOUX  referred to  open  to  the  public and  offered  a                                                               
scenario of a  synagogue with an area it rents  out to the public                                                               
for  various functions,  and the  Klu Klux  Klan or  the American                                                               
Nazi Party want  to have a celebration of Nazi-ism  in that event                                                               
space of  the Jewish  community.  She  asked whether  current law                                                               
forces the Jewish  community to rent to the Klu  Klux Klan or the                                                               
Nazi party.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
2:16:19 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  DECKER  answered no.    In  the  event  a synagogue  or  any                                                               
institution is  opening up space  to the public they  are allowed                                                               
to  turn away  members of  the Klu  Klux Klan  or members  of the                                                               
American Nazi  Party because  the nation, as  a society,  has not                                                               
said that membership in the Klu  Klux Klan or American Nazi Party                                                               
falls  under  what  the  law  calls  a  "protected  class."    He                                                               
explained, there  are certain categories  the law has  carved out                                                               
because society said "when one is  open to the public, one should                                                               
not treat people  on the basis of race, sex,  national origin, or                                                               
physical disability, differently."   Therefore, he said, it would                                                               
be within their  rights to refuse to rent that  space to a member                                                               
of the American Nazi Party or the Klu Klux Klan.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LEDOUX asked whether religion is a protected category.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. DECKER  answered that  religion is  a protected  category and                                                               
one is not allowed ...                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
2:18:04 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LEDOUX  surmised that in  other words, the  Catholic Church                                                               
would have  to rent out space  under current law to  a group that                                                               
identified themselves as witches.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
2:18:23 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. DECKER  answered that  it would depend  upon how  that church                                                               
treated  the  space,  and  it  would be  perfectly  fine  if  the                                                               
Catholic Church  made the decision  on the frontend that  it will                                                               
only rent  that space out to  Catholics.  The Catholic  Church is                                                               
allowed to  treat its spaces  as private; however, if  the church                                                               
says  on certain  days it  will rent  the to  the Girl  Scouts of                                                               
America and the  Senior Citizens group, then the  church made the                                                               
decision to  treat that particular  space as part of  the public.                                                               
Therefore,  he said,  the church  would have  to be  open to  the                                                               
public.   He  added  that  churches have  the  ability to  decide                                                               
whether it wants  to be open to the public  because the law gives                                                               
a church complete  freedom to restrict the uses of  that space in                                                               
accordance  with its  faith.   Although, he  reiterated, for  the                                                               
past 62 years when religious  entities have decided to open space                                                               
to the  public on the  frontend and be  open to all  comers, they                                                               
must in fact be open to all comers.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
2:19:36 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LEDOUX asked "including witches?"                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. DECKER responded  that if, in the hypothetical,  a church has                                                               
decided to open the space to the  public then it would have to be                                                               
open to the public and it  could not discriminate on the basis of                                                               
religions in the same it way  it cannot discriminate on the basis                                                               
of race,  national origin.  He  explained that it is  in the same                                                               
way employers cannot  tell an employee they are  fired based upon                                                               
their religion, and those same  protected classes apply to spaces                                                               
of  public accommodation.    Although, in  the  event the  church                                                               
desires to control who is able  to use their spaces, "they should                                                               
make the eminently reasonable choice  to keep those spaces public                                                               
and not, in fact, open to all comers," he said.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
2:20:26 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LEDOUX  asked whether he  was saying  that the bill  in its                                                               
current  form is  unconstitutional, or  rather that  he disagrees                                                               
with the policy.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
2:20:52 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. DECKER extended  there are no constitutional  cases on point,                                                               
but  if  this  bill  is  passed in  its  current  form  it  would                                                               
dramatically  rewrite  the  balance  the country  and  the  state                                                               
struck for 62 years ...                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LEDOUX interjected "in your opinion."                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
2:21:15 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. DECKER  explained that it  is in  the opinions of  the United                                                               
States Supreme  Court and the  Alaska Supreme Court.   He offered                                                               
that  their letter  cites  both the  U.S.  Supreme Court  Justice                                                               
Scalia's case  of Employment  Div., Dept.  of Human  Resources of                                                             
Oregon  v. Smith,  494 U.S.  872 (1990);  and the  Alaska Supreme                                                             
Court under Swanner  v. Anchorage Equal Rights  Cornmn., 874 P.2d                                                             
274 (Alaska  1994).  He  offered that both clearly  enunciate the                                                               
principle of  the equilibrium point between  the public's freedom                                                               
to be free  from discrimination in public  spaces, and religion's                                                               
freedom  to  exercise  its  religion and  define  it  in  private                                                               
spaces.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
2:22:00 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER   noted  that   under  AS   18.80,  [State                                                               
Commission  For  Human Rights],  if  a  church makes  a  property                                                               
available for leasing for whatever  purpose, potentially there is                                                               
a  problem  because  someone  could allege  that  the  church  is                                                               
discriminating  simply for  denying access  to the  facility, and                                                               
this bill moves toward clarifying that issue.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. DECKER related that he did not understand his question.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  surmised that  what Mr. Decker  is saying,                                                               
under the recently enacted Alaska law,  if a piece of property is                                                               
not  leased,  the owner  becomes  vulnerable  due to  denial  for                                                               
access under  the new "Human  Rights Act."   He asked  whether he                                                               
was correct, that is what the law tries to clarify.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR.  DECKER advised  that  as  the ACLU  reads  the  bill in  its                                                               
current  form, it  is trying  to  carve out,  from existing  non-                                                               
discrimination   law,  places   of   public  accommodation   that                                                               
religious organizations  own and  are renting  out to  the public                                                               
for  wedding  receptions  and  celebrations  of  marriages.    He                                                               
apologized  if  he  was  not  entirely  following  Representative                                                               
Keller's question.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MR. DECKER offered  that the concern animating this  bill in many                                                               
ways is  a solution in  search of a problem.   Non-discrimination                                                               
protections  are not  new in  Alaska or  the United  States.   In                                                               
Anchorage, for  example, in terms  of protections  of individuals                                                               
who are gay and transgender,  Anchorage has had these protections                                                               
for the  past six months, and  neither for the past  62 years, or                                                               
in the  past six months,  the sky has not  fallen, he said.   The                                                               
ACLU  is  unaware  of  any  churches that  have  been  unable  to                                                               
practice their  religion as their  faith teaches it on  the basis                                                               
of  civil rights,  non-discrimination laws.  He pointed  out that                                                               
because this is a solution in search  of a problem in a bill that                                                               
dramatically rewrites a balance the  nation has had for over one-                                                               
half  century.      It  is   for  these  reasons  the  ACLU  made                                                               
suggestions in  its letter to reiterate  the constitutional right                                                               
of churches to  practice their faith as they see  fit, as well as                                                               
to clarify  that this bill  should not undertake such  a dramatic                                                               
change.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
2:25:17 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  asked Mr. Decker to  abandon that question                                                               
for now and  referred to the balance Mr. Decker  said has existed                                                               
for 50 years, and asked whether he  is using case law to form his                                                               
opinion, and asked for a list.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. DECKER  reiterated that  the ACLU's  letter cites  two cases,                                                               
one  was authored  by U.S.  Supreme  Court Justice  Scalia in  an                                                               
eight to one decision, Employment  Div., Dept. of Human Resources                                                             
of  Oregon  v.  Smith,  494  U.S.  872  (1990),  and  Swanner  v.                                                           
Anchorage Equal Rights Cornmn., 874 P.2d 274 (Alaska 1994)].                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
2:26:24 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER referred  to Mr.  Decker's statement  that                                                               
the balance  was to  protect the  rights of  people that  were in                                                               
that public space.  He requested  an illustration because it is a                                                               
balance he had  never considered, and asked what  the balance was                                                               
between what and what.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. DECKER explained that, as a  first principle, the nation as a                                                               
society decided,  beginning 1964,  that when a  place is  open to                                                               
all comers  they cannot turn  people away because of  their race,                                                               
sex, physical disability, national origin  or religion.  Both the                                                               
United States Supreme Court and  Alaska Supreme Court, he pointed                                                               
out, decided  that when there  are laws of  general applicability                                                               
that apply to  everyone equally, the balance  that society struck                                                               
is  that  when religious  organizations  want  to fully  practice                                                               
their  faith and  shield out  a  space that  is not  open to  all                                                               
comers, it  should keep that  space private.  Although,  he said,                                                               
when the  decision is made on  the frontend to open  up a banquet                                                               
hall, it should  be available to all comers.   He reiterated that                                                               
the  balance has  worked  well  for the  public  as  well as  the                                                               
churches for 62 years.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
2:29:30 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN referred to a  question he had asked Bishop                                                               
Edward Burns,  and asked whether  the Catholic Church  would rent                                                               
the Shrine of  St. Therese to a Lutheran couple  who wanted their                                                               
wedding reception there, and a  Catholic priest had not performed                                                               
the ceremony.   He said he  was advised that unless  the Lutheran                                                               
couple converted just before their  wedding they couldn't get the                                                               
priest to marry them.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  CLAMAN  asked,  in  the  context  of  the  public                                                               
accommodations  questions   raised  in  the  ACLU's   letter  and                                                               
proposed amendments, Mr. Decker's  perspective about the Catholic                                                               
Church if  it is renting to  the Lutheran couple for  a reception                                                               
after being  married in  the Lutheran Church.   He  further asked                                                               
whether that means  they are now becoming public  for purposes of                                                               
renting  to  a  gay  couple  that wants  to  have  their  wedding                                                               
reception at the Shrine of St. Terese.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. DECKER  responded that if  the Catholic Church has  taken the                                                               
position it will not marry  this couple because they are Lutheran                                                               
that is  certainly within its  rights under the  First Amendment.                                                               
He  reiterated that  separate from  the  religious ceremony,  the                                                               
church made  the decision  that it  is willing  to rent  to these                                                               
individuals, irrespective of  the fact they are  Lutheran and not                                                               
Catholic, then its  decision to rent the  secular reception space                                                               
to that couple makes it a place of public accommodation.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
2:31:56 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  CLAMAN surmised  that on  the  one hand  it is  a                                                               
solution in  search of a problem,  and on the other  hand even if                                                               
the legislature passes  the current bill, a  potential lawsuit is                                                               
lurking for  the Catholic Church if  it is renting the  Shrine of                                                               
St. Therese to a non-member of the church for a reception.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
2:32:26 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  DECKER reiterated  that if  the Catholic  Church decided  to                                                               
rent  part of  the Shrine  of St.  Therese for  secular purposes,                                                               
such  as secular  wedding  receptions,  then it  is  open to  all                                                               
comers.   A  problem  would  arise if  the  Catholic Church  then                                                               
decided  to not  rent  that  space to  someone  of the  protected                                                               
class.   In  the event  the  Catholic Church  is concerned  about                                                               
that, and it does want to  maintain its ability to choose to rent                                                               
or  not rent  that space  on the  basis of  protected class,  the                                                               
wiser  course of  action  would  be for  the  Catholic Church  to                                                               
decide to  not make  that space  open to the  public and  keep it                                                               
private and available to Catholic individuals.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
2:33:42 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   CLAMAN   surmised   that   from   Mr.   Decker's                                                               
perspective,  even  if the  bill  is  passed as  written  without                                                               
either of  his proposed amendments, the  statute wouldn't protect                                                               
the church and he would  still have the same public accommodation                                                               
arguments regardless of what the statute says.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. DECKER  agreed, and  he said,  "Certainly under  federal non-                                                               
discrimination law."                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  CLAMAN referred  to  Mr.  Decker's two  suggested                                                               
amendments and asked how they solve the problems he raised.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  DECKER  pointed to  the  robust  constitutional freedoms  of                                                               
clergy and  religious organizations in  that they do not  have to                                                               
solemnize marriages  if their faith  teaches that a  certain type                                                               
of marriage  is outside the  boundary of  that faith.   He added,                                                               
that freedom has  existed under the First Amendment  for over 200                                                               
years.  Mr.  Decker continued that the  second proposed amendment                                                               
clarifies this public/private distinction  and, he reiterated, if                                                               
churches  want  to  continue  unfettered  discretion,  the  wiser                                                               
course  of action  is to  designate spaces  as private,  thereby,                                                               
making it  unavailable to all  comers and  the non-discrimination                                                               
laws  do  not  apply,  such as  private  places,  private  clubs,                                                               
private   organizations   and   religious  organizations.      He                                                               
reiterated  that once  the decision  is made  to be  open to  the                                                               
public, it  must be open  to the public.   He explained  that the                                                               
two amendments focus on the  constitutional right to choose which                                                               
marriages  to solemnize,  and  clarifies that  it  is in  private                                                               
spaces that they  have unfettered discretion about  whom to admit                                                               
and serve.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
2:36:27 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT offered a  scenario of the Catholic Church                                                               
deciding to make the Shrine of  St. Therese a private club, and a                                                               
person submitted an application, met  all of the criteria of that                                                               
club, and  was granted access for  a fee, she asked  whether that                                                               
would be acceptable.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. DECKER  responded that the  Catholic Church wouldn't  need to                                                               
go that far  because it is a religious organization  and it could                                                               
simply choose to rent the  space only to Catholic individuals and                                                               
there would be no administrative hoops to go through.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LEDOUX  asked whether the  Catholic Church could  decide to                                                               
rent  the space  only to  Christians, such  as groups  similar to                                                               
Catholicism.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.   DECKER   answered   that  in   both   federal   and   state                                                               
constitutional  law there  is a  well-established principle  that                                                               
courts  cannot  interrogate  the  nuances  of  religious  belief;                                                               
therefore,  if  the  Catholic  Church  takes  the  position  that                                                               
consistent with  their religious  faith, they  only want  to make                                                               
the space available  to other individuals who  believe that Jesus                                                               
is the Messiah  they would have a strong argument  that the space                                                               
is  in  fact  private  because   the  test  in  terms  of  public                                                               
accommodation is whether it is open  to all comers.  In the event                                                               
it  is not  open  to all  comers  and if  the  reason the  church                                                               
decided not  to make  it open  to all comers  is grounded  in its                                                               
religious belief, it would have  a strong argument that the space                                                               
is private and not public.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LEDOUX  asked why the church  couldn't set out that  one of                                                               
the tenets in  the church is that  it will rent the  space to all                                                               
people  who believe  that marriage  is  between one  man and  one                                                               
woman.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
2:39:41 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. DECKER  replied that he does  not want to get  to the nuances                                                               
of ....                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LEDOUX  expressed, that  is exactly  what the  committee is                                                               
getting into, the nuances.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
2:39:57 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. DECKER related that he does  not want to get into the nuances                                                               
of Catholic  doctrine because he is  not an expert.   The test in                                                               
terms  of public  accommodation  is  whether it  is  open to  all                                                               
comers; therefore,  if the Shrine of  St. Therese is open  to all                                                               
comers to  rent for  a secular  reception space,  it needs  to be                                                               
open to all comers.   The church can decide to open  it up to the                                                               
private members of its community in which case ...                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LEDOUX interjected that she  did not believe Mr. Decker was                                                               
answering her question.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  LEDOUX restated  her  question and  asked  why the  church                                                               
couldn't  simply say  that it  would rent  the space  out to  all                                                               
people  who believe  that marriage  is  between one  man and  one                                                               
woman.   She pointed  out that  Mr. Decker  said that  the church                                                               
could only rent  to people who accepted Jesus as  the Messiah, so                                                               
why couldn't  the church  say it  would only  rent to  people who                                                               
believe that  marriage is  between one  man and  one woman.   She                                                               
expressed that that  is a fundamental doctrine of  the faith, and                                                               
then asked  whether the Supreme  Court actually said  that sexual                                                               
orientation is a protected class.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR. DECKER responded no, the United States Supreme Court has ...                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LEDOUX said, thank you.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
2:42:08 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KREISS-TOMKINS  asked whether Mr. Decker  is aware                                                               
of an instance  in Alaska where this legislation  would enable an                                                               
organization that wants  to change its policies but  thus far has                                                               
declined due to fear of exposing itself to liability.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR.  DECKER replied  that he  was not  aware of  any organization                                                               
that,  but for  the fear  of liability,  has been  inhibited from                                                               
changing  its policies.    As  the ACLU  sees  it,  there are  no                                                               
problems out there that this bill would solve, he said                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
2:43:29 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KREISS-TOMKINS referred  to Mr. Decker's statement                                                               
that  the United  States  Supreme Court  has  not defined  sexual                                                               
orientation as  a protected class,  and commented that  the basic                                                               
discussion here is  gay marriages.  With regard  to the protected                                                               
class, where  does a  gay couple, that  is getting  married, fall                                                               
into this area  of non-discrimination given that  gay couples and                                                               
sexual orientation has not been defined as a protected class.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR.  DECKER  reiterated  that  no couple,  whether  same  sex  or                                                               
opposite sex,  has a  constitutional right  to have  a particular                                                               
religious individual marry  them, and there is  nothing in Alaska                                                               
law or nationwide  that obligates any religious  person or clergy                                                               
to officiate  any wedding.   He  explained that  the intersection                                                               
between a same sex couple  wishing to celebrate their marriage in                                                               
a  secular wedding  reception  would interact  with  this law  in                                                               
communities such  as Anchorage,  which decided to  include sexual                                                               
orientation  as  part  of its  existing  non-discrimination  law.                                                               
That  couple, if  a space  is open  to the  public, has  the same                                                               
rights as everyone else to use the space, he said.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
2:45:47 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KREISS-TOMKINS surmised  there isn't  a protected                                                               
class on  the federal or  state level,  but this law  would trump                                                               
the  definition of  protected  classes on  a  municipal level  in                                                               
communities,  such   as  Anchorage,  that  have   defined  sexual                                                               
orientation as  a protected class.   Therefore,  protections that                                                               
exist for  this protected class,  on a municipal level,  would be                                                               
trumped by this law, he asked.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. DECKER  said that Representative Kreiss-Tomkins  was entirely                                                               
accurate as it would trump  municipal protections, and it is also                                                               
accurate  to  say  that  both  federally  and  statewide,  sexual                                                               
orientation is not a protected class.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KREISS-TOMKINS asked  whether sexual  orientation                                                               
is a protected class in the City and Borough of Juneau.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. DECKER  advised sexual orientation  is not a  protected class                                                               
in the City and Borough of Juneau.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KREISS-TOMKINS asked  whether it  is accurate  to                                                               
say that the Catholic Church in  Juneau could decline to rent out                                                               
the  Shrine of  St. Therese  to  a gay  couple that  is having  a                                                               
secular non-religious celebration because  gay couples and sexual                                                               
orientation is not a protected class.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR.  DECKER  responded  that  Representative  Kreiss-Tomkins  was                                                               
correct in  that sexual orientation  is not a protected  class in                                                               
the  City and  Borough of  Juneau,  the Catholic  Church has  the                                                               
legal ability to choose to rent  or not rent space to individuals                                                               
based upon their sexual orientation.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
2:47:37 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
PAMELA SAMASH, asked whether she could ask questions of the                                                                     
committee                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LEDOUX explained that testimony does not include                                                                          
questions.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS. SAMASH offered testimony, as follows:                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     Alrighty,  thank  you for  your  time  and hearing  our                                                                    
     testimonies  today.   Please vote  yes  on HB  236.   I                                                                    
     believe this bill should pass  because we as Christians                                                                    
     are  being  targeted  and  singled   out  and  we  need                                                                    
     protection.     As   a  Christian   myself,  I   cannot                                                                    
     participate    in   certain    clubs   or    activities                                                                    
     contradicting to the Bible.   And that's my right as an                                                                    
     American citizen  to believe and  serve any god  I feel                                                                    
     is best for me.   The Christian church, like me, cannot                                                                    
     support  or  participate   in  those  organizations  or                                                                    
     activities against  the Bible  either.   It's important                                                                    
     that we have  a law that keeps us  from persecution and                                                                    
     from those who  feel offended if we deny  access to our                                                                    
     buildings or  services for anti-Christian events.   The                                                                    
     church's  financial  status  is generally  fragile  and                                                                    
     that's  because we  are trying  to help  people in  our                                                                    
     communities  that   have  needs.     Like   those  with                                                                    
     addictions,  or single  moms, homeless  people, orphans                                                                    
     in other  countries, et  cetra.   One lawsuit  can shut                                                                    
     down not only  the church but all of  the services they                                                                    
     provide to those in dire need.   This is America and it                                                                    
     makes me really sad that  we need to testify to protect                                                                    
     our own Christian rights.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     I'm asking,  please, that  you vote yes  on HB  236 and                                                                    
     protect our religious freedoms.   And since I can't ask                                                                    
     you a question, all I  can respond to my interpretation                                                                    
     of  the bill  is when  you were  asking about  ... does                                                                    
     people that believe  in Jesus or believe in  sex of one                                                                    
     man and one  woman only allowed to use  the church, you                                                                    
     know, like facility.   And I thought that  was a really                                                                    
     good question  and I  can't -- I'm  not his  lawyer and                                                                    
     I'm not  Talerico, so if  I'm messing this  up, forgive                                                                    
     me.   I  feel like  the answer  to that  question isn't                                                                    
     like everybody that walks through  the door has to take                                                                    
     a quiz  on if  they believe the  doctrine of  church as                                                                    
     much as  does the  activity that  they're participating                                                                    
     in support  or contradict  the doctrine of  the church.                                                                    
     In other  words, if  you have 10  people in  there that                                                                    
     want to  participate in some  homosexual event  and the                                                                    
     doctrine says  that homosexuality  is wrong,  you could                                                                    
     ask  those 10  people and  maybe 8  out of  10 of  them                                                                    
     would say,  we believe Jesus is  the Son of God.   But,                                                                    
     you  know,   the  Bible  says,  and   I'm  not  calling                                                                    
     homosexuals'  demons okay,  not  sayin that.   But  the                                                                    
     Bible says even demons believe  Jesus Christ is the Son                                                                    
     of  God.   Believing Jesus  Christ  is the  Son of  God                                                                    
     isn't --  is -- is not  -- is wonderful, but  the thing                                                                    
     is,  does  the  activity  support  or  go  against  the                                                                    
     Christian church's  doctrine.  That's, to  me, the real                                                                    
     point, you know.  So,  I just wanna clarify that that's                                                                    
     my interpretation of what it  means and it would be sad                                                                    
     to see  a church, you  know, that has  strong religious                                                                    
     beliefs in  certain areas,  not just  homosexuality but                                                                    
     any  area,  you know.    Like  you  said Klu  Klux  Kan                                                                    
     somebody  mentioned,  you  know.   Nobody  believes  in                                                                    
     hurting  somebody  just cause  of  the  color of  their                                                                    
     skin, that's  ridiculous, you  know.   And fer  sure we                                                                    
     wouldn't  -- I  know my  church wouldn't  want the  Klu                                                                    
     Klux  Klan to  do  a ceremony  because they're  hurting                                                                    
     people no matter of their  protected class or whatever,                                                                    
     by law or not, because  they go against our doctrine of                                                                    
     love for  each other  and killing  people is  not love.                                                                    
     So,  that's what  I wanted  to share  with you.   Thank                                                                    
     you.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
2:53:25 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KREISS-TOMKIN offered  a  scenario  of the  NWACP                                                               
having a hall  and it decided to open that  hall in a non-private                                                               
manner beyond the  functions of the NWACP chapter and  rent it to                                                               
all comers.   He asked whether the Klu Klux  Klan could rent that                                                               
space  in  the category  of  "all  comers"  and would  they  have                                                               
grounds to  do so and  appeal for a non-discrimination  in asking                                                               
to rent that facility.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. DECKER  reiterated his previous  testimony that the  Klu Klux                                                               
Klan is not a protected class and  if the NWACP does have a space                                                               
open to all comers  it is still able to turn  people away as long                                                               
as that decision is not based  upon a protected class.  The NWACP                                                               
is well within its rights to refuse to rent the space, he said.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
2:55:08 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LEDOUX  offered a  scenario of  a religion  and one  of its                                                               
tenets  was anti-miscegenation  law,  and she  asked whether  the                                                               
NWACP must  rent its space to  an organization with a  tenet that                                                               
white people can't marry black people.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. DECKER  related that  religion is a  protected class  and for                                                               
over  one-half  century the  nation  decided  that public  spaces                                                               
cannot decline  to serve  people simply  based on  the customer's                                                               
religion.   He noted  that the  hypothetical is  interesting, and                                                               
there may  be a  problem if  the NWACP's decision  not to  rent a                                                               
public space, otherwise was made  available to all comers, simply                                                               
based on  the religion of  a specific applicant.   Although, this                                                               
hypothetical  is unlikely  to occur,  but  if it  does the  safer                                                               
course of  action for the  NWACP would be  to decide it  will not                                                               
rent the space to all comers and keep it private, he said.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  LEDOUX,  after  ascertaining  no one  wished  to  testify,                                                               
closed public testimony.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
2:58:15 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JOSHUA BANKS,  Staff, Representative Dave Talerico,  Alaska State                                                               
Legislature, advised he is available.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   KREISS-TOMKINS   asked   the  names   of   local                                                               
governments in Alaska  that have defined sexual  orientation as a                                                               
protected class.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. DECKER  responded he  was unaware of  all of  the communities                                                               
that have  labeled sexual orientation  as a protected  class, but                                                               
this  legislation  is not  targeted  toward  same sex  marriages.                                                               
Although, the  U.S. Supreme Court's  ruling on same  sex marriage                                                               
was the  start of laws  similar to HB  236, it is  not identical.                                                               
The intention  of the bill  is not  to target same  sex marriage,                                                               
but  to allow  any religious  organization to  officiate weddings                                                               
based upon their religious views, he said.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
3:00:21 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KREISS-TOMKINS offered that  he was unsure whether                                                               
the  solemnization of  marriage is  the crux  here, but  everyone                                                               
including the  ACLU agreed that that  is a "cumbiyah" point.   He                                                               
opined  that  the  crux  of the  differing  perspectives  is  the                                                               
accommodation  of  a  facility  that  could  be  related  to  the                                                               
solemnization formation  or celebration  of a  wedding reception.                                                               
He  asked, if  this is  not related  to same  sex marriage,  what                                                               
class, besides sexual orientation and  same sex marriages, is out                                                               
there that is creating a quandary for religious institutions.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KREISS-TOMKINS  further asked whether there  is an                                                               
institution  in  Anchorage  that  has  definitively  changed  its                                                               
practices, such  that instead  of opening  its facilities  to the                                                               
public  and all  comers, has  made itself  private to  avoid this                                                               
quandary in  response to the  Anchorage Assembly  defining sexual                                                               
orientation as a protected class.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
3:01:51 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. BANKS,  in response  to the first  question, advised  that to                                                               
his knowledge in the State of  Alaska there are not any instances                                                               
of  a  pastor  or  any religious  organization  being  forced  to                                                               
officiate  a  wedding  or  have   a  reception  at  their  church                                                               
facility.   Although,  he  pointed  out, Representative  Talerico                                                               
received concerns from  pastors and clergy that  the U.S. Supreme                                                               
Court ruling would potentially put  them in a position where they                                                               
would have to refuse to officiate  the wedding or refuse to allow                                                               
a reception at their facility  which would possibly lead to civil                                                               
litigation.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
3:03:00 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KREISS-TOMKINS asked  for clarification that these                                                               
are Anchorage clergy that currently  make space available to rent                                                               
to the public and all comers.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. BANKS  clarified that the  pastors are constituents  and live                                                               
within  District  6.    He  added that  they  spoke  directly  to                                                               
Representative  Talerico and  he was  unaware of  their locations                                                               
and whether they  do open their facilities to the  public, but he                                                               
would follow up on the question.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
3:03:42 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KREISS-TOMKINS   asked  whether   any  community,                                                               
within District 6, has defined  sexual orientation as a protected                                                               
class;   therefore,   creating   this   problem   for   religious                                                               
institutions.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. BANKS opined that he did not believe so.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
3:04:13 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  CLAMAN referred  to the  two proposed  amendments                                                               
within  the letter  from the  American Civil  Liberties Union  of                                                               
Alaska and  asked whether he  had reviewed those  amendments with                                                               
Representative Talerico prior to this hearing.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. BANKS responded  that this bill was pre-filed  in January and                                                               
the sponsor  did not reach  out to  the ACLU of  Alaska regarding                                                               
this.  He added that outside of  the quote from Mr. Decker in the                                                               
Alaska  Dispatch News,  the sponsor's  office has  not heard  any                                                             
comments or  had any contacts  from the ACLU regarding  this bill                                                               
and this is completely new to the sponsor.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  CLAMAN restated  his question  and asked  whether                                                               
Mr.  Banks had  an opportunity  to show  the sponsor  this letter                                                               
prior to this hearing.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. BANKS responded, no.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
3:05:11 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  MILLETT  commented  that  Fundamentalist  Mormons                                                               
believe  in polygamy  and performing  a marriage  is something  a                                                               
religious organization  wouldn't have  to perform, as  an example                                                               
of something outside of same  sex marriage, that doesn't fit into                                                               
the doctrine of the Catholic Church.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN noted that before  passing this bill out he                                                               
would be  curious to see  what Representative Talerico  thinks of                                                               
either of the two proposed amendments.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
3:06:12 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LEDOUX  advised she  had reviewed  the amendments  and that                                                               
that issue will not hold up the bill.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  LYNN related  that this  is  a good  bill and  he                                                               
supports it because it is common sense.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
3:06:30 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER  moved  to  report  HB  236,  labeled  29-                                                               
LS1290\A  out of  committee with  individual recommendations  and                                                               
the accompanying fiscal notes.   There being no objection, HB 236                                                               
passed from the House Judiciary Standing Committee.                                                                             

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
Adam Trombley - Alaska Bar Association, Board of Governors - Reappointment.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
Confirmation Hearing
Amy Gurton Mead - Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct - Reappointment.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
Confirmation Hearing
Gary J. Turner - Select Committee on Legislative Ethics.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
Confirmation Hearing
Gerad Godfrey - Violent Crimes Compensation Board - Reappointment.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
Confirmation Hearing
H. Conner Thomas - Select Committee on Legislative Ethics.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
Confirmation Hearing
Karla Taylor Welch - Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct - Appointment.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
Confirmation Hearing
Loretta Bullard - Alaska Judicial Council - Appointment.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
Confirmation Hearing
Robert Sheldon - Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct - Reappointment.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
Confirmation Hearing
HJR 29 - Version A.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
HJR 29
HJR 29 - Supporting Documents - Term Limits Convention.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
HJR 29
HJR 29 - Supporting Documents - Art V Convention FAQ.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
HJR 29
HJR 29 - Supporting Documents - Dispelling the Runaway Myth.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
HJR 29
HJR 29 - Written Testimony - Received by 3.24.16.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
HJR 29
HB 236 - Legislation Ver. A.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB 236 - Backup Documents - Texas Legislation.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB 236 - Letters of Opposition - Received by 3-17-16.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB 236 - Letters of Support - Received by 3-17-16.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB 236 - Sectional Analysis.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB 236 - Sponsor Statement.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB 236 - Supporting Document - Equality Texas SB 2065.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236
SB2065
HB 236 - Supporting Document - Letter Pamela Lynn 3.25.16.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB 236 - Supporting Document - SB 2065 - Legislation - Texas.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236
SB2065
HB 236 - Supporting Document - SB 2065 - Summary - Texas.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236
SB2065
HB 236 - Supporting Document - Texas House Passes Pastor Protection Act.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB 236 -Supporting Document- Letter of Support AK Catholic Conference 3-31-16.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB 236-FN1-DHSS -4-1-16.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB 236 - Supporting Document - Response to ACLU.pdf HJUD 4/1/2016 1:00:00 PM
HB 236