Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205

02/28/2006 08:30 AM JUDICIARY


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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+= SJR 20 CONST. AM: BENEFITS & MARRIAGE TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
*+ SB 284 SENTENCING FOR ALCOHOL-RELATED CRIMES TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
= SB 216 BAIL RESTRICTIONS
Heard & Held
= SB 222 PROTECTION OF PERSONAL INFORMATION
Heard & Held
             SJR 20-CONST. AM: BENEFITS & MARRIAGE                                                                          
                                                                                                                              
9:55:20 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR RALPH SEEKINS announced SJR 20 to be up for consideration.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
KRISTEN  BOMENGEN   testified  in  opposition  to   SJR  20.  She                                                               
described her career  and life as one steeped  in public service,                                                               
including volunteering  for Hurricane  Katrina and serving  as an                                                               
international election  observer for  Ukraine. She said  she puts                                                               
as much  effort as  possible into  serving her  community, state,                                                               
country and  world. She said  it was important for  the committee                                                               
to know that she was more than a lesbian.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BOMENGEN   described  her  13-year  relationship   with  her                                                               
partner.  While  she  was  employed   as  an  assistant  attorney                                                               
general,  her   uninsured  partner  suffered   extensive  medical                                                               
issues, which  put them in  serious financial distress  for years                                                               
afterwards.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
10:00:03 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR SEEKINS interrupted Ms. Bomengen to ask her to summarize.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MS.   BOMENGEN  continued   describing   the  extensive   medical                                                               
treatments  sustained by  her  uninsured  partner. She  expressed                                                               
concern over  whether SJR 20 would  serve to allow a  hospital to                                                               
keep her  from visiting her  partner during a  medical emergency.                                                               
She urged  committee members to  consider the harm that  could be                                                               
caused by the resolution and urged them to reject it.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
10:02:13 AM                                                                                                                   
CID  BLASE  testified  in  opposition  to SJR  20.  As  a  school                                                               
teacher,  she said  her  favorite subject  to  teach was  history                                                               
because  she could  show her  students the  many amendments  that                                                               
have been  made to the  United States Constitution  creating laws                                                               
for the  equal treatment of  all, which  benefit the people  as a                                                               
whole. She suggested SJR 20  would reverse the historical tide of                                                               
making access to rights, benefits,  obligations, and qualities of                                                               
life  more equal.  She said  she wants  to continue  teaching her                                                               
students that Alaska sets good examples for other states.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
10:04:44 AM                                                                                                                   
MARGOT KNUTH testified in opposition  to SJR 20. She informed the                                                               
committee that  she worked for the  State of Alaska for  23 years                                                               
both  in  the  Department  of   Law  and  in  the  Department  of                                                               
Corrections.  She said  she is  pleased with  the Alaska  Supreme                                                               
Court  decision,  which  would  allow her  the  same  rights  and                                                               
benefits as her colleagues.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS.  KNUTH described  a letter  to Dear  Abby wherein  Abby sided                                                               
with  the parents  who allowed  their  gay son  and his  longtime                                                               
partner to  sleep in the  same room  while visiting, much  to the                                                               
dislike of the son who was  not married but was visiting with his                                                               
girlfriend and  was not  awarded the  same courtesy.  Abby noted,                                                               
like  the parents  did,  that  while the  unmarried  son and  his                                                               
girlfriend had  the option of  marriage and weren't, the  gay son                                                               
would have  married if  the option were  available. She  said the                                                               
unanimous  Alaska  Supreme  Court  decision was  similar  to  the                                                               
thinking of those  parents and, she said, if that  makes sense to                                                               
five justices of  the Alaska Supreme Court as well  as Dear Abby,                                                               
it should be  appropriate. She urged the committee  to reject the                                                               
resolution.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
10:08:15 AM                                                                                                                   
JOHN  MONAGLE  testified  in  support  of SJR  20.  He  said  the                                                               
taxpayers have a right to vote on the issue.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
IDA BARNICK testified  in support of SJR 20. She  said the voters                                                               
have  decided that  marriage is  between a  man and  a woman  and                                                               
should not be interpreted any other way.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SUE SCHRADER testified in opposition of  SJR 20. She said she and                                                               
her  husband   have  enjoyed  the   benefits  from   his  15-year                                                               
employment with the  State of Alaska. The  benefits have provided                                                               
financial security and  peace of mind, she noted, and  they are a                                                               
good offset for  the high cost of living in  Alaska. The City and                                                               
Borough of  Juneau and  the University  of Alaska  offer domestic                                                               
partnership  benefits  without  incurring excessive  costs.  Many                                                               
large companies  such as IBM,  Microsoft, Ford, Wells  Fargo, and                                                               
Coors Brewing Company  know that providing such  benefits help to                                                               
attract and retain skilled employees.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MS. SCHRADER  suggested the court wisely  and appropriately ruled                                                               
to protect  the rights of  a minority  group, a principle  at the                                                               
heart of  government. She said  she could not comprehend  how SJR                                                               
20 could  strengthen her  marriage. She  suggested the  issue was                                                               
not about  letting the  people vote and  asked the  committee how                                                               
the  majority of  voters  in Alabama  or  Mississippi would  have                                                               
voted on school segregation in 1956.  She said she was proud that                                                               
the  Alaska State  Constitution protects  the rights  of minority                                                               
groups and  that the judges  uphold those  constitutional rights.                                                               
She asserted it was an issue  of fairness in a democratic society                                                               
and  said it  was  wrong to  seek to  amend  the Constitution  to                                                               
deprive Alaskans of equal protections.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
10:13:41 AM                                                                                                                   
DIXIE HOOD testified  in opposition to SJR 20.  She asserted that                                                               
representation  of the  people of  the State  of Alaska  has been                                                               
undermined by  political opportunism.  Proposing an  amendment to                                                               
the Alaska  State Constitution to  further deprive  many Alaskans                                                               
of their  civil rights is  unjust and  contrary to the  ideals of                                                               
democracy,  she stated.  Discrimination  based on  self-interest,                                                               
ignorance or righteousness is all too  common and has no place in                                                               
Alaska. She urged the committee to reject the resolution.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
PAUL GRANT  testified in  opposition to SJR  20. He  suggested it                                                               
was   a   discriminatory   resolution   that   seeks   to   write                                                               
discrimination  into  the  Alaska  State  Constitution.  He  said                                                               
African Americans  would not be  allowed to vote  and segregation                                                               
would still  be allowed in schools  today if that issue  were put                                                               
on  the  ballot  in  southern states.  He  suggested  the  Senate                                                               
Judiciary Standing Committee was  avoiding its responsibility for                                                               
upholding the anti-discriminatory  provisions of the Constitution                                                               
by allowing SJR 20 to go forward.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT questioned  Mr.  Grant's statement  regarding                                                               
African Americans not being allowed  to vote and said that wasn't                                                               
true since  it would  have been pre-empted  by the  United States                                                               
Constitution.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. GRANT said that was exactly  the point. The judiciary was the                                                               
body  that  decided  against  the  will  of  the  people  against                                                               
constitutional   and   statutory   provisions.   He   cited   the                                                               
interracial marriage case of Loving  versus Virginia in which the                                                               
United  States  Supreme  Court  said  state  laws  that  prohibit                                                               
interracial marriage are unconstitutional.  He said had the issue                                                               
been   put  to   a  popular   vote,  Virginia   law  would   have                                                               
overwhelmingly been supported by voters in the South.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
10:19:07 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR SEEKINS  said Senator  Therriault's point  was there  is no                                                               
Supreme Court decision that addresses the topic of SJR 20.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR.  GRANT  countered  the  Alaska   Supreme  Court  decision  is                                                               
standing. There  is also  the recent Romer  versus Evans  case in                                                               
Colorado.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
10:20:00 AM                                                                                                                   
DIANE MAYER  testified in opposition to  SJR 20. She said  it was                                                               
poorly  drafted,  confusing,  and  difficult  to  interpret.  She                                                               
questioned  the meaning  of it  and  its affects.  She asked  the                                                               
definition  of "qualities  of marriage"  and said  the resolution                                                               
was misleading since same-sex couples  are denied marriage in the                                                               
State of Alaska.  She said the Alaska Supreme  Court decision was                                                               
not about the benefits of marriage,  it was about equal access to                                                               
the benefits of employment.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS. MAYER said:                                                                                                                 
     You  can't sign  up for  life or  health insurance  for                                                                    
     your  family,  joint  or survivor  annuities,  a  death                                                                    
     benefit,  or health  insurance in  retirement for  your                                                                    
     life partner simply because  of a marriage certificate.                                                                    
     To  receive these  benefits  you  have to  successfully                                                                    
     compete for  a job, you have  to go to work  every day,                                                                    
     you  have to  be productive,  satisfactorily accomplish                                                                    
     your assignments.  These benefits  are all  provided as                                                                    
     benefits  of  employment   though  they  are  currently                                                                    
     granted  only to  those employees  who  are allowed  to                                                                    
     marry.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS.  MAYER said  Article 1  of the  Constitution states  that all                                                               
persons have a  natural right to the enjoyment of  the rewards of                                                               
their industry.  She asserted that  the benefits in  question are                                                               
linked  to  employment  and not  marriage.  The  opportunity  for                                                               
family stability is  a result of the  person's industriousness in                                                               
the workplace, she stated. She  urged the committee to uphold the                                                               
Alaska State Constitution and reject the resolution.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS.  MAYER pointed  to  a  report from  the  Conference of  Young                                                               
Alaskans held in  January 2006. Fifty-five young  Alaskans met to                                                               
                      th                                                                                                        
commemorate   the   50    anniversary   of   the   Alaska   State                                                               
Constitution.  In  their  report  they  overwhelmingly  voted  to                                                               
approve language  that specifically  stated support of  a diverse                                                               
culture. Item  4 in their  report specifically says,  "Because it                                                               
directly  inhibits the  rights of  individuals, the  Alaska State                                                               
                               th                                                                                               
Legislature shall  repeal the 25   Amendment to the  Alaska State                                                               
Constitution defining marriage."                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
                                                                th                                                              
SENATOR HUGGINS  asked Ms.  Mayer whether she  supported the  25                                                                
Amendment.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS. MAYER said no.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
10:26:33 AM                                                                                                                   
JANELL HAFNER  testified in  opposition to SJR  20. She  said the                                                               
Alaska Supreme  Court decision could  be read in  conformity with                                                               
the Alaska State Constitution.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CANDACE BROWER  testified in opposition  to SJR 20.  She strongly                                                               
urged members to dissolve the resolution in committee.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
10:28:29 AM                                                                                                                   
MICHAEL MACLEOD-BALL,  Executive Director, Alaska  American Civil                                                               
Liberties Union testified. He disagreed  with earlier comments of                                                               
some committee members  that their job is to  pass the resolution                                                               
on to  the people for  a vote. He said  they are mistaken  to say                                                               
that the  Alaska State Legislature  has no real  substantive role                                                               
to play in  the matter and that  its only duty is  to simply pass                                                               
the question  along to the people.  He said it ignores  the clear                                                               
obligation of the  Legislature to vet the very  serious matter of                                                               
amending the foundation document of Alaska State laws.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
He  encouraged the  committee members  to protect  the individual                                                               
rights of  all Alaskans. He  said pollsters get the  answers they                                                               
want when  they design the  question in  the right way.  A rigged                                                               
question  will  get  a  rigged  answer,  he  said.  He  said  the                                                               
question,  in this  case, is  misleading and  he is  still unsure                                                               
what SJR 20 means.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
10:31:55 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.  MACLEOD-BALL  said  one  thing  it would  do  is  amend  the                                                               
Marriage Amendment  but the court decision  accepted the Marriage                                                               
Amendment  in full  and interpreted  the Equal  Protection Clause                                                               
and  said  the  existing  employment  benefit  system  for  state                                                               
workers was  discriminatory under the Equal  Protection Clause of                                                               
Article 1.  He suggested the  real problem was with  the question                                                               
that  the proponents  of SJR  20 would  propose to  offer to  the                                                               
voters.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
He said:                                                                                                                        
     If you  insist on  passing on  your obligation  to stop                                                                    
     this  now, then  at least  you ought  to ask  an honest                                                                    
     question about  what you want  to achieve. You  want to                                                                    
     change  the outcome  of the  case that  was decided  in                                                                    
     October and that  means you want to  change the meaning                                                                    
     of the Equal Protection Clause.  If you want to let the                                                                    
     people decide,  then at  the very  least, ask  them the                                                                    
     right  question.  Do you  want  to  restrict the  Equal                                                                    
     Protection  Clause  so that  it  no  longer applies  to                                                                    
     unmarried individuals? Do you  want to exempt unmarried                                                                    
     individuals from  the benefits of equal  protection? In                                                                    
     that  case, I  think,  you will  have sidestepped  your                                                                    
     obligation to  protect individual  rights in  this body                                                                    
     but at  least you  will have  framed the  issue arising                                                                    
     out of  the case that  came down in October  and you'll                                                                    
     have raised it  in the context of  the Equal Protection                                                                    
     Clause,  which   I  think   is  the   more  appropriate                                                                    
     question.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
10:33:48 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  HUGGINS  took  exception Mr.  Macleod-Ball's  suggestion                                                               
that he was a party to a "rigging."                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS advised Mr. Macleod-Ball  that he could not respond                                                               
to Senator Huggins' comment.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS said:                                                                                                             
     Then I will  speak up on it. I think  it was a metaphor                                                                    
     and people  need to  listen to  the entire  argument. I                                                                    
     think the point  that I heard was the  question you ask                                                                    
     is  very important  and is  something that  actually we                                                                    
     haven't spent  any time in  this committee on,  nor has                                                                    
     the person that we hired  spent time explaining why the                                                                    
     question and  why it's framed  the way responds  to the                                                                    
     [Alaska] Supreme Court decision.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
She said she used to write  polling questions for a living and it                                                               
is the case of spinning the question to get the desired result.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS said  it was  not the  intent of  the sponsors  to                                                               
trump equal rights  protection; and that SJR 20  was a legitimate                                                               
question to pose to the voters.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
10:38:48 AM                                                                                                                   
SEINA ANIHETA expressed concern as  an employee of the University                                                               
of  Alaska  that SJR  20  would  jeopardize  the ability  of  the                                                               
University  to attract  and retain  highly  trained workers.  She                                                               
said  the resolution  in its  broadness would  have unintentional                                                               
effects.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
KATE SUNWOOD  testified in  opposition to  SJR 20.  She contended                                                               
the resolution was ambiguous and  unclear of intent. She said SJR                                                               
20  would  wipe  out  people's opportunity  to  purchase  medical                                                               
insurance.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
10:41:07 AM                                                                                                                   
WILLIAM HILL  testified in support  of SJR 20. He  suggested that                                                               
non-traditional marriages  create at-risk  youths. He  said every                                                               
child in  the state should  have the  opportunity to live  in the                                                               
traditional atmosphere  of a male  husband and female  wife since                                                               
that is what  creates stable citizens. All cultures  in the world                                                               
agree that marriage  and family are traditional. For  the sake of                                                               
at-risk  youth, he  said, Alaska  citizens  should do  everything                                                               
possible  to  discourage  non-traditional families,  rather  than                                                               
encourage them by providing benefits for them.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
FRED  TRABER testified  in  opposition  to SJR  20.  He said  his                                                               
partner  and  he have  been  together  for  over 30  years.  They                                                               
jointly own  property, have  well respected  careers, and  make a                                                               
positive  contribution  to their  community.  He  said they  have                                                               
decades of experience  with discrimination and it  has been their                                                               
experience  that  intolerant  and  mean-spirited  people  promote                                                               
discrimination and bigotry.  There is no credible  reason for the                                                               
legislative  body  of the  people  to  put a  ballot  proposition                                                               
promoting discrimination before the people.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
10:45:57 AM                                                                                                                   
GLEN  BIEGEL  commented on  SJR  20.  He  said he  supported  the                                                               
resolution   and  that   the   Alaska   Supreme  Court   overrode                                                               
precedence,  original intent,  lower  court rulings,  legislative                                                               
action, public  intent, common sense,  and the plain  language of                                                               
the Alaska State Constitution. He  suggested the problem was with                                                               
the  judiciary  and  said  they   are  not  interested  in  being                                                               
constrained and  will make their  own interpretations. SJR  20 is                                                               
an attempt  to redress a  judiciary that does not  understand the                                                               
Constitution.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
He said  the resolution is not  apparent that it applies  only to                                                               
public  groups.  He said  the  Alaska  Supreme Court  might  also                                                               
ignore the  amendment and create  a new type of  relationship and                                                               
therefore grant that relationship benefits.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
10:49:31 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. BIEGEL summarized by suggesting  there were difficulties with                                                               
the resolution being over broad.  He suggested the Alaska Supreme                                                               
Court caused the need for SJR 20.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Chair Seekins held SJR 20 in committee.                                                                                         

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