Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205

03/01/2006 08:30 AM JUDICIARY

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
<Bill Hearing Canceled>
Heard & Held
Scheduled But Not Heard
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Moved SJR 20 Out of Committee
Moved CSSB 216(JUD) Out of Committee
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
             SJR 20-CONST. AM: BENEFITS & MARRIAGE                                                                          
CHAIR RALPH SEEKINS announced SJR 20 to be up for consideration.                                                                
8:44:35 AM                                                                                                                    
LIZ BOARIO  informed the  committee that  she was  testifying for                                                               
herself  as  well  as  her  husband. She  echoed  a  remark  from                                                               
previous testimony  that SJR 20 was  discriminatory and divisive.                                                               
She said it  dishonors the hallmarks of Alaska and  of the United                                                               
States  Constitution, specifically  the Equal  Protection Clause.                                                               
She has  not heard  serious argument that  the resolution  is not                                                               
harmful. Instead what she is  hearing is the mantra regarding the                                                               
people's  will,  and  history  is  full  of  tragic  examples  of                                                               
majority  manipulation.  She  suggested   there  were  plenty  of                                                               
serious  issues  that need  attention  without  people having  to                                                               
create  new  ones  where  none  exist. She  said  she  is  deeply                                                               
saddened  to   witness  what  she   saw  as  a   polite  charade.                                                               
Constitutional amendments  are historically  used to  make things                                                               
better for the  people and SJR 20 would hurt  talented people who                                                               
work for the betterment of all Alaskans.                                                                                        
8:48:02 AM                                                                                                                    
DOUG  VEIT testified  in opposition  to SJR  20. He  said it  was                                                               
patently  discriminatory; it  singles out  a particular  class of                                                               
people and  systematically deprives  them of economic  and social                                                               
resources simply  because of  their membership  in the  class. He                                                               
suggested  there  were specific  reasons  for  the separation  of                                                               
church  and state.  He said  he has  not heard  any testimony  of                                                               
support for the resolution that passes the logic test.                                                                          
8:51:23 AM                                                                                                                    
BELINDA SESSIONS testified  in opposition to SJR 20  and said she                                                               
spoke  for  her  partner  as  well. She  said  the  Alaska  State                                                               
Constitution should  guarantee basic rights, not  take them away.                                                               
She  described her  23-year lesbian  relationship  and said  they                                                               
gladly pay taxes, attend church,  volunteer in the community, and                                                               
contribute monetarily  to organizations  that help the  needy. If                                                               
the  Legislature  succeeds  in  overturning  the  Alaska  Supreme                                                               
Court, Alaska  will be  guilty of  discrimination by  giving some                                                               
employees  better  benefits  packages   than  others.  It  is  an                                                               
employment issue and not a marriage issue, she stated.                                                                          
8:53:47 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  SESSIONS commented  that equitable  benefits packages  would                                                               
increase  the  ability  of  the schools  to  recruit  and  retain                                                               
teachers. She urged the committee to reject the resolution.                                                                     
8:54:58 AM                                                                                                                    
TAMMY  DAVIS  testified  in  opposition  to  SJR  20.  She  noted                                                               
previous  testimony  in opposition  to  the  resolution has  been                                                               
wrought with thoughtful, heartfelt,  and intelligent comments. It                                                               
is  her opinion  that SJR  20 mandates  unequal compensation  for                                                               
equal work for individuals who  choose domestic partnership as an                                                               
alternative to church or state-sanctioned  union as well as those                                                               
who are not able by law  to come into a legally binding marriage.                                                               
She urged  the committee  to support the  civil liberties  of all                                                               
Alaskan citizens and reject the resolution.                                                                                     
8:56:46 am                                                                                                                    
MO MCBRIDE  testified in opposition  to SJR  20. She said  she is                                                               
not in  one of the  groups affected by  the issue but  feels very                                                               
strongly   that  the   Alaska   State   Constitution  was   being                                                               
threatened.  She suggested  committee  members transpose  another                                                               
group of people  into the resolution, such as  Hispanics, and see                                                               
whether  that seemed  like  a fair  resolution.  She said  adding                                                               
exclusionary  language to  the Constitution  is against  what the                                                               
creators of the  document intended. She said  the Preamble states                                                               
very clearly  they wanted to  transmit to  succeeding generations                                                               
the  heritage of  political, civil,  and religious  liberty. They                                                               
reiterated it again in the  inherent rights section of Article 1.                                                               
She strongly urged the committee to reject the resolution.                                                                      
8:59:38 AM                                                                                                                    
KATHY SWEENEY  testified in opposition to  SJR 20. She said  as a                                                               
licensed  healthcare  official  she found  it  unfathomable  that                                                               
elected  officials  were  writing  legislation  that  would  deny                                                               
healthcare to citizens  of Alaska. She considered  the irony that                                                               
recently United  States Senator Lisa Murkowski  addressed members                                                               
of  the committee  along  with the  entire  Legislative body  and                                                               
encouraged  them to  work towards  improving  healthcare for  all                                                               
Other  legislative  committees  are working  diligently  to  make                                                               
Alaska an  attractive state for  young professionals to  come and                                                               
fulfill employment roles,  she stated. SJR 20  works against that                                                               
MS.  SWEENEY  noted that  more  than  99  percent of  people  who                                                               
testified  have  opposition to  the  resolution.  Members of  the                                                               
committee have  suggested the  issue was  one of  much contention                                                               
yet  she  saw  no  evidence  of  it.  She  said  abortion  was  a                                                               
contentious  issue  and  if  that   were  the  issue  before  the                                                               
committee there  would be much  heated debate on both  sides, yet                                                               
testimony on SJR 20 was one-sided.                                                                                              
9:04:02 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  SWEENEY  suggested  that  when it  comes  to  politics,  the                                                               
majority of  Americans are paralyzed  by apathy and  suggested it                                                               
was   due   to  elected   officials   not   listening  to   their                                                               
CHAIR SEEKINS closed public testimony.                                                                                          
CHAIR SEEKINS announced a brief recess at 9:05:48 AM.                                                                         
9:10:25 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEEKINS asked for discussion among committee members.                                                                     
SENATOR  GENE THERRIAULT  commented the  issue was  difficult and                                                               
should not  be taken lightly.  It would require a  super majority                                                               
to pass the  Senate since it would be an  amendment to the Alaska                                                               
State  Constitution. He  said the  debate had  been good  and the                                                               
language of SJR  20 would be modified throughout  the process and                                                               
so   he  moved   SJR  20   out  of   committee  with   individual                                                               
SENATOR  FRENCH objected.  He  said the  measure  was brought  in                                                               
response to  a unanimous Alaska  Supreme Court decision  that was                                                               
penned by one of the more  conservative members of the court. The                                                               
proposal seeks  to overturn that  decision. The Court  found that                                                               
the state  could not deny  health benefits to  long-term partners                                                               
of  its  gay  employees  consistent  with  the  Equal  Protection                                                               
Clause. He said  this was a clear message of  equal pay for equal                                                               
work.  He said  he could  not let  SJR 20  go forward  because it                                                               
chips away  at the  Equal Protection Clause  of the  Alaska State                                                               
Constitution.  He said  that  was  more than  he  could bear  and                                                               
maintained his objection.                                                                                                       
CHAIR SEEKINS announced a brief recess at 9:13:22 AM.                                                                         
9:13:35 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEEKINS  brought the  committee meeting  back to  order and                                                               
asked for further discussion.                                                                                                   
SENATOR THERRIAULT stated  a three-two vote out  of committee did                                                               
not amount to  a two-thirds vote and he did  not know whether the                                                               
measure  would see  a two-thirds  vote  on the  Senate Floor.  He                                                               
contended  legislators continually  hear  testimony on  decisions                                                               
that  the Court  makes  and said  it  is the  way  the system  is                                                               
designed.  He  insisted  that  suggesting  an  amendment  to  the                                                               
Constitution could  not be unconstitutional  and that  the voters                                                               
should be trusted to do the  right thing. He said since voters in                                                               
his district  voted 4-1 in  favor of the Marriage  Amendment, SJR                                                               
20 deserved  further discussion and  should not be halted  in the                                                               
first committee of referral.                                                                                                    
9:15:49 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR GUESS suggested  SJR 20 was not what  people were looking                                                               
for.  She  expressed  sadness  that Alaskans  have  had  to  come                                                               
forward and  speak about their  sexuality in front of  camera and                                                               
that  the  Legislature was  going  to  continue that  process  by                                                               
moving the  resolution out of  committee. She said the  issue was                                                               
about asking  the majority to vote  on minority rights and  it is                                                               
wrong and  discriminatory. She  said she would  vote to  keep the                                                               
resolution in  committee to  die and  voiced support  for letting                                                               
Alaska move forward.                                                                                                            
CHAIR  SEEKINS  said  he interpreted  the  Alaska  Supreme  Court                                                               
opinion to  mean that the  1998 Marriage Amendment did  not speak                                                               
to the issue.  He said footnote 38 says the  Court recognized the                                                               
benefit programs became discriminatory  only after the electorate                                                               
adopted  the Marriage  Amendment in  1998. The  courts have  said                                                               
that the people  have forced the state to  treat same-sex couples                                                               
as though they  were married even though they are  not. The state                                                               
needs to  ask the people whether  that was their intent.  He said                                                               
it was the right of the  people to decide whether they accept the                                                               
Alaska Supreme Court ruling.                                                                                                    
9:19:09 AM                                                                                                                    
Roll call  proved SJR 20  passed out of  committee on a  3-2 vote                                                               
with Senators  Huggins, Therriault,  and Seekins voting  yea; and                                                               
Senators French and Guess voting nay.                                                                                           

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