Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205

02/21/2006 08:30 AM JUDICIARY


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08:37:12 AM Start
08:37:51 AM SJR20
10:48:03 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+= SJR 20 CONST. AM: BENEFITS & MARRIAGE TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
             SJR 20-CONST. AM: BENEFITS & MARRIAGE                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
8:37:51 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEEKINS announced SJR 20 to be up for consideration.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
KEVIN  CLARKSON, attorney,  introduced  himself as  a past  legal                                                               
counsel for the  Alaska State Legislature in 1998 and  one of the                                                               
drafters  of  the amendment  to  Article  1,  Section 25  of  the                                                               
Constitution of the State of Alaska [AS 25.05.013].                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
He reported the history behind SJR  20 was because of a challenge                                                               
to the ratification  of the Marriage Amendment. In  response to a                                                               
decision  by the  Superior Court  in Anchorage  in a  case called                                                               
(indisc) versus  the Bureau of  Vital Statistics [Feb  28, 1998],                                                               
the Superior  Court ruled that a  person has the right  to choose                                                               
their mate. This  ruling included the right to marry  a person of                                                               
the same  sex. The plaintiff  in that  case sought marriage  as a                                                               
doorway  to   the  benefits  and   privileges  attached   to  the                                                               
relationship, Mr. Clarkson said.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
8:39:04 AM                                                                                                                    
The  plaintiff  argued there  were  115  privileges and  benefits                                                               
created  by Alaska  law that  were attached  only to  the married                                                               
relationship of  a man  and a woman.  Once married,  the Superior                                                               
Court  noted,   the  state  provides  benefits   to  spouses  and                                                               
dependants.  The  original  pretenses of  the  proposed  Marriage                                                               
Amendment of 1998 were, "To be  valid or recognized by the state,                                                               
a marriage may exist only between one man and one woman."                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
8:42:41 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. CLARKSON advised  the committee that the  primary impetus for                                                               
SJR 20 was  the "ACLU versus the State of  Alaska" litigation. In                                                               
that  case the  plaintiffs argued  for a  separation of  marriage                                                               
status from  marriage benefits as  a way to seek  another doorway                                                               
to  compensation benefits.  The  Superior Court  of Alaska  ruled                                                               
that  the   Marriage  Amendment  did  not   constitutionally  bar                                                               
domestic partnership  benefits, literally  telling the  people of                                                               
Alaska  that  they  voted  in  favor of  rights  of  benefits  to                                                               
unmarried, same-sex couples.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
8:44:52 AM                                                                                                                    
[Due  to difficulty  in hearing  the testimony  of Mr.  Clarkson,                                                               
Senator Guess asked for a faxed copy of his testimony.]                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
8:46:52 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. CLARKSON  hypothesized that the  implication of  "ACLU versus                                                               
the State  of Alaska"  will cause an  equal protection  claim and                                                               
mandate  private   employers  to  provide   domestic  partnership                                                               
benefits for their workforce.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
8:49:13 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  THERRIAULT asked  Mr. Clarkson  whether the  language of                                                               
SJR 20 was adopted from language tested in other state's courts.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. CLARKSON  said yes.  It is  similar to  an amendment  that is                                                               
pending in California.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT expressed  interest in  receiving information                                                               
regarding the issue where the courts have weighed in.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR.  CLARKSON said  he was  unaware of  any court  that has  ever                                                               
thrown out  an amendment that  was passed by the  Legislature and                                                               
ratified by the people.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT clarified he  was looking for any deliberation                                                               
where the  courts have decided  whether the language  as proposed                                                               
in SJR 20 was considered  internally inconsistent. He said Alaska                                                               
privacy law is very strong but often contended.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
8:51:51 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEEKINS  asked Mr.  Clarkson  whether  he  is aware  of  a                                                               
proposed  federal   amendment  that  is  briefer   than  what  is                                                               
currently on the table in SJR 20.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR. CLARKSON said yes.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS asked  Mr. Clarkson whether he could  give a reason                                                               
as to  why the federal amendment  language was so brief  in terms                                                               
of the  rights, benefits, obligations,  qualities and  effects of                                                               
marriage.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. CLARKSON responded he would have  to refer to the list of 115                                                               
rights and privileges listed in the (indisc) litigation.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  informed Mr. Clarkson  that people  contacting his                                                               
office believed  their vote  on the  marriage amendment  was also                                                               
intended to  limit the rights  and benefits of marriage  to same-                                                               
sex  unions. He  asked  whether the  drafters  of that  amendment                                                               
meant  to  contain  within  the marriage  union  the  rights  and                                                               
benefits of marriage.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
8:56:20 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  CLARKSON  reiterated  his earlier  testimony  and  suggested                                                               
Chair  Seekins'  constituents  were  right  in  that  the  recent                                                               
amendment should  have addressed the  issue once and for  all. He                                                               
said  the Marriage  Amendment, which  the Legislature  passed and                                                               
the   people  ratified,   presupposed  that   marriage  and   the                                                               
accompanying benefits were exclusively  linked. He said the state                                                               
argued that  the only avenue  available for unmarried  people was                                                               
legislation properly enacted by the Legislature.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
8:59:04 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEEKINS  said the people  wish to be given  the opportunity                                                               
to vote on the issue.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. CLARKSON  pointed out  that the  Legislature is  empowered to                                                               
give the people the opportunity to amend the Constitution.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  said in  viewing the ACLU  opinion, one  thing the                                                               
Alaska Supreme Court said is "We  must give effect to every word,                                                               
phrase and clause  of the Alaska Constitution."  He asked whether                                                               
passing  of SJR  20 would  confine the  115 marriage  benefits to                                                               
opposite-sex married couples.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. CLARKSON said yes.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS  asked  Mr.  Clarkson  whether  SJR  20  could  be                                                               
effectively challenged.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR.  CLARKSON  said  there  might  be  a  challenge  but  not  an                                                               
effective one.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
9:03:00 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEEKINS claimed  he heard  several opinions  on the  topic                                                               
over the weekend. He asked  whether SJR 20 would affect dependent                                                               
relationships and preclude dependents  from being protected on an                                                               
insurance policy.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
9:06:24 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.   CLARKSON   did  not   know.   Currently   there  are   many                                                               
relationships that  do not receive  the equivalent  benefits that                                                               
married  couples do.  He said  SJR 20  would preserve  the status                                                               
quo.                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS asked  whether SJR  20  would preclude  collective                                                               
bargaining units from offering extended benefits.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR.  CLARKSON said  no. He  said private  companies would  not be                                                               
affected. He  said Alaska Communications Systems  (ACS) currently                                                               
extends benefits to  same-sex partners and that SJR  20 would not                                                               
change that.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS disagreed  and said ACS does not  offer benefits to                                                               
domestic partners.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS  noted  that  the   University  of  Alaska  offers                                                               
domestic  partner benefits  but  that the  employee  has to  meet                                                               
several hurdles. He asked whether  the proposed legislation would                                                               
invalidate their policy.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR. CLARKSON did not know.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
9:08:13 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEEKINS said  the intent  was  not to  bar any  collective                                                               
bargaining   unit  from   bargaining  for   domestic  partnership                                                               
benefits. He called for public testimony.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
9:09:24 AM                                                                                                                    
CHUCK O'CONNELL testified in opposition  to SJR 20. He said since                                                               
statehood the  State of  Alaska has  always recognized  equal pay                                                               
for  equal work.  The contents  of SJR  20 would  take the  state                                                               
backwards in  terms of  progress. He  accused the  legislators of                                                               
attempting  to limit  the Alaska  State Constitution,  which they                                                               
once swore  to uphold. He  said that violated Article  1, Section                                                               
15, which  prohibits the Legislature  from making a  law granting                                                               
special  privileges  for  immunity.  He said  he  also  sees  the                                                               
resolution as an  infringement on Section 22, which  is the right                                                               
to privacy.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  O'CONNELL said  he  has a  30-year  history with  collective                                                               
bargaining and  he felt SJR 20  would change the benefits  from a                                                               
mandatory  subject  of  bargaining  to a  permissive  subject  of                                                               
bargaining.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
9:12:32 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. O'CONNELL asked the committee to reconsider the resolution.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  asked Mr.  O'Connell to explain  what he  meant by                                                               
equal pay for equal work.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR.   O'CONNELL  explained   that  benefits   are  part   of  the                                                               
compensation package and make up part of the pay for the work.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS asked Mr. O'Connell  whether he believes there is a                                                               
compensation disparity  for employees  who have  fewer dependents                                                               
and therefore  less insurance  coverage than  an employee  with a                                                               
large family.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. O'CONNELL said  no. Similarly, an employee who  has a serious                                                               
illness  would not  necessarily  receive  more compensation  than                                                               
another.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS added  SJR 20 is not an example  of the Legislature                                                               
creating law. The final vote would be with the people.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
9:16:15 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  THERRIAULT   commented  that  a   legislative  committee                                                               
considering a  change to  the Alaska  State Constitution  was not                                                               
unconstitutional nor was it a breach of the duty of legislators.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS stated for the  record that committee bills are not                                                               
put in by  the entire committee; a majority member  puts them in.                                                               
She explained that  she does not support the  resolution, nor was                                                               
she consulted on it.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS  clarified  the   resolution  was  placed  in  the                                                               
committee by request.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Testimony  at   timestamp  19:19:00  was   unintelligible.  Chair                                                               
Seekins  asked  the  LIO  to  work on  the  feed.  The  committee                                                               
returned to the Fairbanks LIO at 9:38:00.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
9:20:57 AM                                                                                                                    
STEVE CLICK,  retired teacher,  testified against  SJR 20.  He is                                                               
currently living  with his domestic partner  in California. Under                                                               
California  state law,  gays receive  many, but  not all,  of the                                                               
rights  and  responsibilities  of  marriage  because  of  federal                                                               
legislation.  The  amendment  to the  Alaska  State  Constitution                                                               
would  affect  many  families  and  children.  One  goal  of  the                                                               
government should be  stability of and respect  for all families.                                                               
He took issue of a reference  to the "gay lifestyle." He said his                                                               
lifestyle is  one of family,  community service,  longtime member                                                               
of the Kiwanis Club, and taxpayer.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
He  questioned how  his relationship  would adversely  affect the                                                               
civil rights  and privileges of  others. He suggested  the Alaska                                                               
State  Constitution should  be written  to include  protection of                                                               
minority  groups  of  people.  He urged  the  committee  to  vote                                                               
against SJR 20.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
9:24:10 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEEKINS  asked Mr. Click  whether he thought the  people of                                                               
the State of Alaska would vote for the amendment.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR. CLICK said if the  information were correctly disseminated to                                                               
the people, it would not pass.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS asked  whether  he thought  the  people of  Alaska                                                               
should have the right to vote on the issue.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  CLICK referred  to a  recent  vote in  California where  the                                                               
people passed a marriage law  that the governor vetoed. There are                                                               
currently cases in  both the California Supreme Court  as well as                                                               
in the lower  courts. He contended that there are  times when the                                                               
Legislature must overrule the popular  vote in favor of doing the                                                               
right thing.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
9:27:28 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGGINS asked  Mr.  Click  his opinion  of  how far  the                                                               
bounds of society norm could be stretched.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR.  CLICK said  the  world is  constantly  changing and  society                                                               
changes from moment to moment.  He urged the committee members to                                                               
be more accepting of others with different beliefs.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
9:31:32 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGGINS  expressed support  for  letting  the people  of                                                               
Alaska vote on the issue.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR.  CLICK responded  the civil  rights of  all citizens  must be                                                               
held up even if the majority votes against a group.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS questioned whether  the recent Alaska Supreme Court                                                               
ruling,  in effect,  negated  AS 25.15.013.  He  asked Mr.  Click                                                               
whether he agreed that Alaskan  citizens, not the courts, had the                                                               
responsibility of creating laws.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
9:36:31 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  CLICK said  he partly  agreed with  that. He  reiterated his                                                               
earlier statements that it is  the responsibility of the state to                                                               
protect the civil rights of all  its citizens. If the court needs                                                               
to  step   in  and   do  that   then  that   is  part   of  their                                                               
responsibility, he said.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
9:38:02 AM                                                                                                                    
BRANDON  MAITLEN testified  in support  of SJR  20. He  expressed                                                               
support for allowing citizens to vote on the issue.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
9:41:01 AM                                                                                                                    
CHERYL HUMME  testified in opposition  to SJR 20. She  took issue                                                               
with Senator Huggins  reference that sharing a bond  with a same-                                                               
sex  partner was  not normal.  She challenged  the resolution  as                                                               
being highly discriminatory.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
9:41:51 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR FRENCH joined the committee.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS.  HUMME  continued   by  saying  she  does   not  believe  the                                                               
resolution should  go before the  people for a vote.  She claimed                                                               
that scare  tactics would be  used to persuade voters  to support                                                               
an amendment.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
9:44:34 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEEKINS asked for clarification  that Ms. Humme was fearful                                                               
of a media campaign.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS. HUMME agreed.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS asked whether she had  faith that the people in the                                                               
State of Alaska would do the right thing.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS. HUMME charged that the resolution  was about money and that a                                                               
fully funded  media campaign would  distort the issues.  She said                                                               
she  would gladly  testify  in  support of  a  bill that  ensures                                                               
medical coverage for every Alaskan.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
9:46:02 AM                                                                                                                    
RICK SOLIE testified  in support of SJR 20. He  said the majority                                                               
of  Alaskans, when  voting  on the  Marriage  Amendment in  1998,                                                               
singled out  marriage as a  union that gave benefits  to society.                                                               
He said the recent court  decision negates that amendment and the                                                               
people should  be able to  vote on  the issue to  further clarify                                                               
their stance.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
9:49:05 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEEKINS asked Mr. Solie  whether he thought the majority of                                                               
Alaskans  would  vote  in  favor  of  limiting  the  benefits  of                                                               
marriage to a union between a man and a woman.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR.  SOLIE  said  yes.  It  is his  feeling  from  speaking  with                                                               
community  members  that   they  would  vote  in   support  of  a                                                               
clarifying amendment.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
9:50:57 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGGINS aired  surprise  at hearing  witnesses say  they                                                               
were opposed  to allowing people to  vote on the issue.  He asked                                                               
Mr. Solie whether he shared the same concern.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. SOLIE said yes.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
9:54:25 AM                                                                                                                    
JANE SCHLITTLER, retired school nurse  and president of the local                                                               
Parents,  Friends  and  Family   of  Lesbians  and  Gays  (PFLAG)                                                               
chapter,  testified against  SJR 20.  She informed  the committee                                                               
that  there are  over 500  PFLAG chapters  in the  United States,                                                               
four of which are in Alaska. She  said she is tired of having her                                                               
children discriminated  against and  pushed down  to second-class                                                               
citizenship.  She  expressed  agreement with  the  recent  Alaska                                                               
Supreme Court ruling.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS asked  Ms. Schlitter  whether she  thought Alaskan                                                               
voters would pass the proposed amendment.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS.  SCHLITTLER said  yes. The  civil rights  movement would  not                                                               
have progressed if people had been  allowed to vote on the issues                                                               
of equality.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
9:57:03 AM                                                                                                                    
JOAN HAMILTON  testified against the resolution.  She agreed that                                                               
the amendment, if  put before the voters, would be  voted in. She                                                               
said the  people also  voted in  "English only",  which prevented                                                               
many  Alaskan Natives  from participating  in Alaskan  government                                                               
because they couldn't speak English.  She questioned the fairness                                                               
of  that.  She said  the  local  government decided  her  earlier                                                               
education for her  and since she did not  have "refined features"                                                               
was forced to attend a  "lesser school" and therefore had limited                                                               
opportunities.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MS.  HAMILTON  expressed concern  that  when  legislators do  not                                                               
agree  with an  Alaska  Supreme Court  decision  they change  the                                                               
Constitution.  She strongly  opposes  legislation  that treats  a                                                               
part of  the population as  second-class citizens  and maintained                                                               
that the resolution would be anti-progressive.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS announced a brief recess at 10:01:54 AM.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
10:07:38 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR SEEKINS brought the meeting back to order.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
10:08:09 AM                                                                                                                   
ANDREA DOLL  testified in  opposition to  SJR 20.  She said  as a                                                               
teacher  she  was  well acquainted  with  American  history.  Our                                                               
forefathers  came  to  this  country because  in  their  land  of                                                               
origin, they were a minority and had no rights or protections.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
When they had the opportunity to  draw up the Constitution of the                                                               
United States,  they made every  effort to protect the  rights of                                                               
the  minority  over the  abuses,  judgments  and decrees  of  the                                                               
majority.  The  same  situation   exists  today,  she  said.  The                                                               
majority feels  they have the  right to impose their  morality on                                                               
the  minority. She  referenced Alabama  in the  1960s when  local                                                               
authorities  used  dogs  and  fire hoses  to  keep  civil  rights                                                               
activists  from  demonstrating.  She  said if  the  civil  rights                                                               
issued had been put forth to  the voters back then, it would have                                                               
negatively affected  the movement.  The United  States Government                                                               
took  the   higher  ground  back   then  and  the   Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature should do the same, she stated.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGGINS  advised Ms.  Doll that  his neighbors  and other                                                               
people he has talked to tell him  they did not intend to vote for                                                               
domestic partnership benefits. He  said people might be surprised                                                               
at the outcome of the public  vote. He said he is very supportive                                                               
of allowing the people the chance to vote on issues.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
10:12:18 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR FRENCH wanted to clarify  some points that were raised by                                                               
Ms. Doll.  He said  most people believe  that the  majority rules                                                               
but  that is  not always  true.  The Constitution  of the  United                                                               
States of America contains  strong anti-majority aspects, written                                                               
specifically to protect minority populations.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS asked  Ms. Doll whether she  has studied government                                                               
and whether she  knew of a single state that  has voted to change                                                               
the definition of marriage.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS. DOLL  said she has  studied government  but does not  know of                                                               
any state that has voted to change the definition of marriage.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS said:                                                                                                             
     But yet, there have been  several courts that have used                                                                    
     ...  where  the  courts  have  ruled  that  defining  a                                                                    
     marriage that way  violates state constitutional, equal                                                                    
     protection, due process clauses. Is that correct?                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MS. DOLL said:                                                                                                                  
     I understand the direction of  your question and you're                                                                    
     talking  about   judicial  versus   legislature  versus                                                                    
     executive powers  here and what represents  the people.                                                                    
     I believe  that is the  direction of your  question, is                                                                    
     that not right?                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS said:                                                                                                             
     Basically I'm  trying to get  at one thing. Is  it your                                                                    
     opinion that  the courts should  legislate or  that the                                                                    
     people should speak on matters of this nature?                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MS. DOLL  said she  believes in  a system of  a higher  ground to                                                               
justice. She referenced  the civil rights movements  in the 1960s                                                               
and said:                                                                                                                       
     We must rely  on the higher natures  of our legislators                                                                    
     and  our  court people.  I  also  regard this  body  as                                                                    
     having the  ability to see  the higher,  broader field,                                                                    
     to see the future, to see  where we must go as a nation                                                                    
     and as a  people. Not only within this  nation, but the                                                                    
        importance of this tolerance to the climate as a                                                                        
      whole. It is absolutely imperative that we leave our                                                                      
     moral discriminations behind us and embrace humanity.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
10:16:22 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR SEEKINS  asked Ms.  Doll whether it  was immoral  to define                                                               
marriage as between one man and one woman.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS.  DOLL responded  that has  very  little to  do with  people's                                                               
nature and  goodness. Forming unions  is a personal  decision and                                                               
it should not be within the power  of the state to define it, she                                                               
stated.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
10:17:13 AM                                                                                                                   
MARY  GRAHAM identified  herself  as a  state  employee who  took                                                               
personal time  off to  testify on  the resolution.  She disagreed                                                               
with previous  testimony that  suggested when  the people  of the                                                               
State of Alaska voted on  the Marriage Amendment, they also voted                                                               
to deny  domestic partnership benefits.  She said that  issue was                                                               
only  about  the  word  "marriage" being  reserved  for  a  union                                                               
between one  man and one woman.  She stated this is  not an issue                                                               
to  put  before  the  majority   because  it  is  a  function  of                                                               
government to protect minorities.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
10:20:23 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. GRAHAM  said the  Legislature set up  an unequal  system that                                                               
said the  only way  homosexual couples  could be  compensated the                                                               
same as heterosexual couples is to  be married, an avenue that is                                                               
closed.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH thanked  the witness for her presence.  He said he                                                               
felt  the issue  was whether  it  was constitutional  to pay  gay                                                               
employees less,  in terms  of employee  benefits, than  their co-                                                               
workers who are married.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS asked  Ms. Graham  how she  felt the  people would                                                               
vote on the issue.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MS. GRAHAM  hoped that reasonable  heads would prevail.  She said                                                               
there  is  economic  discrimination  for gay  employees  who  are                                                               
domestic  partners  and  also for  those  raising  families.  She                                                               
stated  that  people  did  not  vote  to  treat  their  neighbors                                                               
unequally.  Money, mis-information,  and  the  media will  become                                                               
involved in the ballot question and  hate will enter into it. She                                                               
said the State of Alaska does not need that.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
10:24:13 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. GRAHAM  said there is a  point where the government  needs to                                                               
step up and protect all of the people.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
10:24:55 AM                                                                                                                   
PETER NAKAMURA, retired  director of public health  for the State                                                               
of Alaska, testified  that SJR 20 would be used  as a weapon that                                                               
has  already instigated  much pain  and would  continue to  do so                                                               
against  many  valued citizens.  The  resolution  comes from  the                                                               
conclusion of some citizens that  a certain lifestyle needs to be                                                               
punished.  The  rights, benefits,  and  qualities  of a  same-sex                                                               
relationship are denied  because they do not conform  to the long                                                               
accepted  definition of  marriage as  one strictly  involving one                                                               
man and one woman.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MR.  NAKAMURA  related  his personal  experience  of  having  his                                                               
family transported  from their  home in  Oregon to  a barbed-wire                                                               
compound during  World War II.  He stated  that it is  not always                                                               
the correct solution  to allow a public vote on  an issue because                                                               
of past proven discriminations against a minority group.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
10:29:11 AM                                                                                                                   
Discrimination against African Americans  in the South and Native                                                               
American  rights on  traditional  lands  are only  a  few of  the                                                               
examples of situations  resolved by official actions  and not the                                                               
vote of the public. Alaska  fishing rights would be significantly                                                               
restricted if left to the vote of the public.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR.  NAKAMURA proposed  filing  SJR 20  into  the wastebasket  to                                                               
avoid promoting greater pain and injury  to a group of people who                                                               
already suffer from bigotry and discrimination.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
10:31:03 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  SEEKINS asked  Mr.  Nakamura his  opinion  of the  current                                                               
definition of marriage in the statutes.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. NAKAMURA  said if the  intent is  to restrict the  rights and                                                               
benefits of people who deserve them  then the definition is not a                                                               
good one.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS asserted  that many people would prefer  to vote on                                                               
the issue to clarify the intent of the 1998 amendment.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. NAKAMURA  said there is no  reason to meddle with  the Alaska                                                               
State Constitution.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS   said  AS  25.05.013(b)  says   that  a  same-sex                                                               
relationship  may not  be  recognized as  being  entitled to  the                                                               
benefits of marriage.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. NAKAMURA  said he believes  in separation of powers  and that                                                               
the judicial system is there to make interpretations of the law.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS asked  Mr.  Nakamura whether  the  people have  no                                                               
right to challenge a judicial decision.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. NAKAMURA emphasized  there are times when the  rights of some                                                               
minorities need be protected. He  asserted that many instances of                                                               
discrimination would  still be  happening today  were it  not for                                                               
the Constitution of  the United States and  the judicial system's                                                               
interpretation that  has allowed the  people to make  changes for                                                               
the betterment of the people as a whole.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
10:35:23 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR FRENCH  said Chair Seekins'  question brings an  issue to                                                               
mind. He referred the committee to  Page 10 of the Alaska Supreme                                                               
Court decision and  quoted, "...nor have we been  referred to any                                                               
legislative history  implying that the Marriage  Amendment should                                                               
be interpreted  to deny employment  benefits to  public employees                                                               
of  same-sex,   domestic  partners."  He  said   at  least  three                                                               
attorneys were working on the  state government side of the brief                                                               
and  at least  the same  on the  other side.  The search  for any                                                               
official  pronouncement regarding  the  purpose  of the  marriage                                                               
amendment might be in vain.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGGINS said  he did not share  Mr. Nakamura's confidence                                                               
in the  judicial system.  He said the  Ninth Circuit  is commonly                                                               
overruled and perhaps should be  broken up because of the rulings                                                               
of some judges.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS  clarified it wasn't  "some judges" but  the entire                                                               
Alaska Supreme Court.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS speculated  about  the intent  of  the people  who                                                               
voted  for  the  Marriage  Amendment.   He  suggested  there  was                                                               
validity in putting the question on the ballot.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
10:40:22 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. NAKAMURA expressed  respect for the intent of  the people but                                                               
said there are times  when there is a need to  go beyond that and                                                               
do what is right.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
10:41:56 AM                                                                                                                   
JERI  MUSETH testified  in opposition  to SJR  20. She  expressed                                                               
doubt for swaying the intent of  the committee and said she feels                                                               
the majority  has already made the  decision to pass SJR  20 out.                                                               
She  took   issue  with  the   suggestion  that  the   court  was                                                               
"legislating  from  the bench,"  and  said  they interpreted  the                                                               
Alaska State  Constitution, which  correlated to  their decision.                                                               
She  read the  definitions  of  "discrimination" and  "prejudice"                                                               
from Webster's dictionary.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
10:45:44 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR SEEKINS  held SJR 20  in committee. There being  no further                                                               
business to come  before the committee, he  adjourned the meeting                                                               
at 10:48:03 AM.                                                                                                               

Document Name Date/Time Subjects