Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/09/1996 08:05 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 308 - PROHIBIT SAME SEX MARRIAGES The next order of business to come before the House State Affairs Committee was SB 308. CHAIR JAMES announced in the effort of time the committee members had been provided with the minutes of the previous testimony heard in the Senate. Therefore, she would only take testimony from those that had not already testified. Number 1641 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON explained there was a change in SB 308. She believed anybody should be able to testify. Number 1653 CHAIR JAMES replied, "I understand." She reiterated those that had already testified in the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate House, Education and Social Services Committee would be heard today if there was time. She wanted to hear only from those that had not already testified. Number 1673 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said she disagreed. She had not heard the testimony in the Senate. Furthermore, this was the only committee in the House of Representatives that would hear this bill. CHAIR JAMES asked Representative Robinson if she had read the minutes in the packet of information? REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON replied, "that's beside the point." The bottom line was that the people had a right to come before this committee and give their testimony. CHAIR JAMES replied she would hear those that had not testified already first, and if time permitted, she would hear the others. Number 1717 REPRESENTATIVE NORMAN ROKEBERG explained he was hear to present the nature of SB 308 to the House State Affairs Committee members. He said SB 308 was similar to HB 227 but was different in two respects. It first added the explicit prohibition of same-sex marriages in the state. It secondly applied the document to marriages contracted in other states making them unenforceable in the state. The provisions were necessary to avoid potential litigation as it related to the full faith and credit clause of the U. S. Constitution with respect to reciprocity. He cited the activity of the legislature and the Supreme Court in the state of Hawaii regarding this same issue (Baehr v. Lewin). He explained the case was still in the court waiting for a recommendation by a committee established by the Hawaiian State Legislature. It was possible that the state of Hawaii would allow for the recognition of same-sex marriages. He referred the committee members to a handout titled, "Family News - Update on Same Sex Marriage Bans" indicating this was a national issue. Furthermore, a case had been filed in the Third Judicial District in Anchorage challenging the lack of a same-sex marriage license based on the privacy clause and the equal protection clause of the Alaska State Constitution. Therefore, it was important for the legislature to make a strong and compelling argument for a policy prohibiting same-sex marriages. He asked the committee members for their support of SB 308. CHAIR JAMES called on the first witness via teleconference in Kodiak, Charles Tripp. Number 1941 CHARLES TRIPP expressed his support of SB 308. He explained it was in response to reciprocity and the prohibition of same sex marriages in Alaska. The bill was not discriminatory against homosexuals, but a distinction between what was a family and what was not. He cited rape was so broadly defined in society that the term had become meaningless. Therefore, the broadening of the term "marriage" needed to be avoided to truly distinguish between ordinary behavior and reprehensible behavior. Furthermore, society reserved benefits for families and marriages, and by providing those benefits to all, it removed the special privileges. The bill further prohibited the adoption of a child by a homosexual couple. He urged the committee members to support SB 308. CHAIR JAMES called on the next witness via teleconference in Kodiak, Dan Minyard. Number 2089 DAN MINYARD expressed his support of SB 308. He felt it was the responsibility of the state to protect and honor the family institution. CHAIR JAMES called on the next witness via teleconference in Delta Junction, Charles Abbott. Number 2142 CHARLES ABBOTT said because of homosexuality there was AIDS and because of AIDS there was an airborne virus transmitted through turburculosis. He wondered why the leaders would consider killing the people for the sake of a few perverted homosexuals. He called homosexuality an abomination. "Judgement is coming upon this nation as it is (indisc.) law." Furthermore, homosexuals could not reproduce, so "let's stop this unnatural perverted lying now." CHAIR JAMES called on the next witness via teleconference in Delta Junction, Barbara Rawalt. Number 2192 BARBARA RAWALT called SB 308 an excellent bill. She said a traditional marriage was a safeguard for a stable society. The bill also maintained the standard of basic rights and laws. She reiterated her support of SB 308 and urged the committee members to support it as well. CHAIR JAMES called on the next witness via teleconference in Delta Junction, Roy Bowdre. Number 2334 ROY BOWDRE asked the committee members to support SB 308. This bill would help prevent the force of the immorality of a few onto the majority. CHAIR JAMES called on the next witness via teleconference in Anchorage, Deborah Vandruff. Number 2263 DEBORAH VANDRUFF said as a health care provider she was concerned about the state of families today. She asked the committee members to consider the fact that families were changing with society, and by passing a law against a gay family would not make it go away. She wondered what happened to the Alaskan policy of "live and let live." The bill smelled of outside groups trying to impose their will onto Alaska. Furthermore, recognizing a loving couple would not only provide stability to the communities but produce secure and good citizens. She was not sure what everyone was so afraid of when two people wanted to make a commitment that loved each other. Moreover, homosexuals could reproduce contrary to the previous testifier. She asked the committee members to not pass this "ridiculous bill." CHAIR JAMES called on the next witness via teleconference in Anchorage, Sylvia Short. Number 2338 SYLVIA SHORT, Member, Citizen of the State of Alaska, read the following statement into the record. "One of the tenets advocated by the Republican majority in Congress is the lessening of government regulations. This I applaud as a recognition of the independence of the American spirit which is the product of our freedom and equality. Every governmental encroachment on our privacy diminishes our American spirit. "The government itself has no rights other than those granted to it by the people. The government, therefore, cannot dictate our private relationships as it has no such powers. In Alaska the people have spoken clearly that the right of privacy shall be a right of Alaskan citizens. The state therefore cannot infringe on our privacy nor grant to some what it refused to others without breaking our constitution. "Some raise arguments about a `slippery slop' in opposition to our exercise of the right to control our own dying. The slippery slope could be extended to the right to marry or to recognize marriages, so that maybe one could not marry a left-handed person or a Eurasian or a native person. These are all part of the same pain, if our laws will purport to inhibit marriage between certain persons, where does the government stop?" CHAIR JAMES called on the next witness via teleconference in Anchorage, Allison Mendel. Number 2409 ALLISON MENDEL said she had lived in Anchorage for 14 years of which two of her four children were born in Anchorage. She was also an attorney. She was interested in the comments of Representative Rokeberg. She had followed the bill closely and had yet to understand the need for the bill. She asked the committee to enlighten her regarding the crisis that this piece of legislation was responding to. Furthermore, she said there were more people that wanted to testify on this bill but could not due to the short notice of the hearings in the Senate. Please consider that as well. This was a serious road to follow, she explained. She reiterated she had yet to hear public articulation regarding the seriousness of the problem. TAPE 96-47, SIDE B Number 0000 MS. MENDEL further said the state of Alaska had never had a law on the books to disregard the law of another state. She asked the committee members to read the memorandum dated March 28, 1996, from Terri Lauterbach, Legislative Counsel, carefully because it was produced late in the hearings in the Senate. She reiterated this was not an issue, it was not responding to any social problem that needed to be addressed. She said it was a perception of something that might happen down the line. CHAIR JAMES called on the next witness via teleconference in Anchorage, Lynn Stimler. Number 0076 LYNN STIMLER asked the committee members to respond to the memorandum dated March 28, 1996, from Terri Lauterbach, Legislative Counsel. She asked Representative Willis to respond first as her representative. She asked Representative Willis directly what he thought of the constitutional arguments contained in the legal analysis of the ACLU and in the memorandum? CHAIR JAMES asked Ms. Stimler to stand by because the committee was still taking public testimony. They would respond to her question later. MS. STIMLER said she would pass her three minutes allotted so that all of the Representatives could respond to the arguments in the ACLU paper and in the memorandum so that the public understood their positions. CHAIR JAMES said she would like to continue with the testimony, and the committee members would consider her question when discussing the bill after the testimony. CHAIR JAMES called on the first witness in Juneau, Jed Whittaker. Number 0176 JED WHITTAKER said he was here today to say a prayer to heal the hatred that was in the hearts of the committee members. The hatred that did not recognize that everyone was different, yet the same, because we were human beings. He was here to pray that the love in their hearts would come forward to overcome the hatred that this bill was about. He said it was acceptable to disagree about appropriate social behavior, but 50 percent of heterosexual marriages ended in divorce. He wondered where the stability was that this bill was supporting. He said, "you cannot legislative love. You could try to legislate hate, but you could not legislate love." He reiterated he hoped they could find the love in their hearts and see that the bill was nothing but hatred. It was not appropriate for the state of Alaska to engage in acts of hatred. Number 0247 CHAIR JAMES replied that she did not hate anyone. She did not like the actions of some people, however. She reiterated she did not hate Mr. Whittaker or other people. She did not even think of the homosexuality relating to this bill. She was willing to create legislation to give same-sex relationships similar benefits that a man and woman marriage produced. However, the word "marriage" was sacred to her. She announced she would support SB 308. "What you have (Mr. Whittaker) is a loving relationship, if that happens to be your choice, I believe that is something different." Number 0300 MR. WHITTAKER stated Chair James assumed he was gay. CHAIR JAMES replied she did make that assumption. She apologized if she was incorrect. MR. WHITTAKER further said the assumption that Chair James just made was the heart of this kind of legislation. He called it bigotry because there was an assumption of hate based on sight alone. CHAIR JAMES responded she liked Mr. Whittaker just fine. She did not hate him. MR. WHITTAKER replied, "you referred to me as a gay man." CHAIR JAMES said she also liked him that way also. She had no problem with "those kind of people, whoever they are." She reiterated she had no dislike for gay people. She said she felt the same way as Mr. Whittaker did when she was accused of being hateful. It was the same frustration. It had to be dealt with, but it probably would not be solved today. She announced she would be happy to talk to Mr. Whittaker at another time on this very issue to see how to accomplish these goals. Number 0354 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said he would prefer to finish the testimony before debating the issue. CHAIR JAMES explained the testimony was finished unless there was time left for the previous witnesses to testify again. She apologized if she insulted Representative Green on this issue, but she felt compelled to address the hatred statement. MR. WHITTAKER said hatred was what this issue was all about. CHAIR JAMES replied she understood his feelings. She also had the same feelings. CHAIR JAMES announced there was enough time left for two minutes each from the remaining testifiers. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said, "so testimony isn't over then." CHAIR JAMES replied, "no." There was time left to hear further testimony. CHAIR JAMES called on the next witness via teleconference in Anchorage, Susan Moeher. Number 0414 SUSAN MOEHER said she was a registered nurse and was concerned that the laws of the community did not reflect the families that she met and worked. The families had changed over the years, and the laws were behind the times. They did not support the families of the 1990's. Furthermore, as a health care provider she found this bill to be very cruel and exclusive to people. She believed it was an important bill for the homosexual community because it needed the same sort of benefits and support as the heterosexual community, such as, health care benefits. She reiterated SB 308 was wrong. CHAIR JAMES called on the next witness via teleconference in Kenai, Phil Reemtsma. Number 0557 PHIL REEMTSMA said he supported SB 308. It was not an issue of hate. He was a Minister at Calvary Baptist and he did not hate anybody. There was a responsibility to do what was right, however. It was God that set the standard and it was God that instituted marriage, therefore, there was a moral responsibility to do what was right. He thanked the Chair for allowing him to testify. CHAIR JAMES called on the next witness via teleconference in Kenai, Joanne Jencks. Number 0620 JOANNE JENCKS thanked the committee members for considering SB 308 today. She said it was too bad that society had degenerated to the point that this type of legislation needed to be considered. The previous testimony in the Senate indicated that the opposition was concerned about the cost. She cited in the 1960's the bible and God were thrown out of the schools, and since then divorce had skyrocketed, children were having babies, and venereal diseases had gotten out of hand causing tax payers enormous amounts of money. Furthermore, she stated a homosexual lifestyle was the cause of AIDS also costing the tax payers an enormous amount of money with no end in sight. Therefore, if the traditional merits of marriage were adhered to, it would not cause the state anything compared to the alternatives. CHAIR JAMES called on the next witness via teleconference in Delta Junction, Dan Davis. Number 0700 DAN DAVIS said he wanted to go on record again as a strong supporter of SB 308. It was a behavior that was physiologically destructive. He further said it was an issue of sodomy and not procreation. He cited the average homosexual had over 500 partners in a lifetime which did nothing more than spread sexually transmitted diseases. The statistics further showed that homosexual behavior was destructive to the health of the individual and decreased his life expectancy. Therefore, to promote this behavior was dangerous. It did not make sense to legitimize the behavior legally. He said SB 308 was right. He reiterated homosexuality was a behavior choice, it was not about a relationship. CHAIR JAMES called on the first witness in Juneau, Mildred Boesser. Number 0829 MILDRED BOESSER said she had testified before so she would keep her comments brief. She said she was very much in favor of supporting families. She had been married to the same person for 48 years with four children and four grandchildren. She was not against marriage. However, there were other types of families in this society. She said the times were changing and it was necessary to recognize the other types of families and give them support. She knew two lesbian couples that had lived together for 40 years. They could never be married, however. Her own daughter was a lesbian and had lived with her partner for 14 years. They owned a house, worked, and paid taxes in this community, but could not enjoy the benefits of a married couple. This was an inequality that was not right. Moreover, she was a Christian and suggested it was time to realize that God might have created people with a different sexual orientation. She disagreed with the previous speaker that homosexuality was a choice. It was not a choice, it was something that one was born with, so it was a gift of God. CHAIR JAMES called on the next witness in Juneau, Daniel Collison. Number 0955 DANIEL COLLISON, Board Members, Southeast Alaska Gay and Lesbian Alliance, shared an Easter story with the committee members of a child seeking questions to a traditional part of the dinner preparation. He said gays and lesbians had never fit the mold of a traditional marriage of one man and one woman. The advocates rested too easily on this traditional interpretation of marriage. A narrow and prudish view belied the fluid manner in which humans had and would continue to redefine marriage as an institution. He cited marriages were more often than not in the past arranged by the parents. He further wondered about interracial marriages when the Southern states outlawed them in the 1960's. Similarly, SB 308 denied recognition of same-sex marriages sanctioned by other states. The courts had found such laws to be unconstitutional in the past and would continue to do so in the future. These cases never hinged on the gray area of legal interpretation, it was black and white in constitutional law. The state had no compelling interest to bar a recognition of a union with another person of the same-sex. CHAIR JAMES called on the next witness in Juneau, Sara Boesser. Number 1216 SARA BOESSER said she was glad to see that the committee members had the memorandum dated March 28, 1996, from Terri Lauterbach, Legislative Counsel, because it showed the constitutional problems of the bill. She said there was no cause for harm if the same gender partners married because there was no way to stop the affirmation of the relationship currently. Furthermore, she stated her marriage to her same-sex partner did not interfere with the strength of another family. She cited it was fidelity, love, respect, commitment, honesty, trust and responsibility that strengthened a family. Furthermore, history was against bills such as SB 308. She cited race, religion, disability and divorce were issues surrounding marriages in the past. Therefore, the tradition of marriage had evolved over time. Change was the nature of an evolving society. History was what created the civil rights protection in this world today. Therefore, the bill would be an extension of the next wave of legal rights to even more Americans. She asked the committee members to vote against SB 308. CHAIR JAMES called on the next witness in Juneau, Marsha Buck. Number 1384 MARSHA BUCK, Member, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) - Juneau, said PFLAG was against SB 308. The bill sounded and felt like discrimination. She cited her daughter was in a relationship with another woman and was being discriminated against for wanting to establish a strong and stable family. The bill did not contain any features that were helpful to Alaskans, but instead interfered with the personal rights of Alaskans. She reiterated PFLAG was against SB 308 and asked that it be removed from any further consideration. CHAIR JAMES called on the next witness via teleconference in Kodiak, Burnie Lindsey. Number 1522 BURNIE LINDSEY said he supported SB 308. The country was established on Biblical principles and the Ten Commandments. He was against homosexuality. Furthermore, one of the reasons for a family was to procreate and homosexuality could not provide that aspect of a marriage. CHAIR JAMES called on the next witness via teleconference in Anchorage, Amy Young. Number 1618 AMY YOUNG said she was against SB 308. The language was unconstitutional. It was fear that drove the opposition. She said the 1990's represented "gay bashing" reinforcing the fear and hatred. Furthermore, the laws affected the mood of the public. Therefore, if SB 308 was passed it sent the message that it was acceptable to discriminate against gays and lesbians. CHAIR JAMES called on the next witness via teleconference in Dillingham, Karen Carlisle. Number 1777 KAREN CARLISLE said she was against SB 308. She was embarrassed that legislators in her state were trying to pass a bill that was so blatantly prejudiced. It reminded her of school grade behavior amongst children. She cited she knew several lesbian couples that were very responsible citizens. Furthermore, the Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Unitarians, and the Unity Church performed commitment ceremonies, therefore, not all Christians were opposed to same-sex marriages. She asked the committee members to oppose this prejudice and vote no on SB 308. Number 1947 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON requested that SB 308 go to a subcommittee to further look at the issues addressed in the memorandum dated March 28, 1996, from Terri Lauterbach, Legislative Counsel. It was clear that Alaska denied same-sex marriages. Therefore, this was a non-issue. It generated fear because people believed it was an issue. She reiterated there were potential U. S. Constitutional and Alaska State Constitutional issues that affected Sec. 2 of SB 308 that needed to be looked at further. Number 2039 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN wondered how gay people could reproduce. He was referring to a statement made earlier by a witness regarding the ability of a gay couple to reproduce. He said, "inquiring minds want to know how." CHAIR JAMES replied she did not have the answer. Number 2078 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG said there was a full faith and credit issue involved, but according to the memorandum dated March, 1995, from Terri Lauterbach, Legislative Counsel, she recommended making changes to HB 227 to overcome those objections thus creating SB 308. It was crystal clear that the decision of one state's supreme court should not be able to dictate the social policies of this country. Therefore, this was a necessary action. He reiterated there was a case filed in the Third Judicial District in Alaska regarding this issue, therefore, it was a current issue before the legislature. There was a compelling reason to make a public policy statement. This was not a non-issue. Furthermore, the policies relating to the Loving v. Virginia case set forth by Ms. Lauterbach and Ms. Stimler were not germane. A situation did exist that needed to be clarified in statute, therefore, he urged the committee members to support SB 308. Number 2274 CHAIR JAMES said HB 368 was recently passed out of the House State Affairs Committee that contained many provisions that bridged on the issue of constitutionality. She said, if it was unconstitutional, it would be determined by the courts. That was their responsibility. However, over the past few years, the courts had been making the laws. The legislative body could not sit here and try to second guess what the courts would do. The legislature was here to legislate the will of the people. Number 2358 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked Representative Rokeberg if he knew of any case where the courts interpreted that a same-sex marriage was legal in the state of Alaska? Number 2381 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG replied, "no." He was only familiar with the Baehr v. Lewin case in Hawaii. The only case he knew of in Alaska was at the bar. Number 2408 CHAIR JAMES said the current law was changed to "person" by the revisor of statutes, whereas previously it stated "man" and "woman." Therefore, SB 308 would make this perfectly clear. Number 2439 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said she was talking about a court interpretation. The courts had not interpreted that anything other than a man and a woman could be married. She said Chair James was correct that in 1974 the language changed in the statutes. She further wondered if anyone in the state of Alaska had issued a license to recognize a same-sex marriage. Number 2472 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG said this was a current area of dispute, judicially. TAPE 96-48, SIDE A Number 0000 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG further said in Minnesota there was a statute that clearly indicated that discrimination against sexual orientation was not allowed. However, it strictly prohibited same- sex marriages. Clearly, there were different courts and different rulings on similar language with varying conclusions. Number 0077 CHAIR JAMES said she supported SB 308 because society was on a "slippery slope." The bill was not a slippery slope bill, however. Furthermore, she was not convinced that society was willing to go down that slippery slope any further. Society was paying a price for the acceptance of divorce, for example. There was a direct correlation between the money spent on the welfare programs and the loosening of society. She said she was not judging if that was right or wrong, however. She was also afraid of the effects of conditioning to the point that it did not bother a person anymore. This was how society had progressed through he 20th Century. Moreover, she remembered when common law was not recognized in some states. She believed that a ceremony was not needed to recognize a marriage, but according to laws of the land a permit was needed. She said she did not have a problem with same-sex relationships and recognizing their rights under the laws. However, she did not agree with using the term "marriage" to describe that relationship. She was not willing to give up the concept of marriage between a man and a woman just yet. Furthermore, she hated discrimination and would not discriminate against anybody. She looked at SB 308 as a discrimination against herself, however, and her concept of marriage. Marriage was very, very important to her, therefore, she would support SB 308. CHAIR JAMES announced she wanted to move the bill out of the committee today. Number 0388 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said in many ways she agreed with Chair James. She believed, however, that SB 308 contained constitutional problems. Furthermore, the pain that the bill brought forward was wrong when this was a non-issue. The law indicated that no one had ever been issued a marriage license in the state of Alaska unless it was a man and a woman couple. The reasoning behind this issue at a national level was because many did not like the lifestyle of homosexuals. She further cited AS 25.05.021 that stated a marriage was prohibited if either party already had a husband or wife. Furthermore, AS 25.05.010-11 was titled "husband and wife." It was clear this was not an issue costing the state money. There was a case in court so let it rule and if there was a problem then the legislature should address the issue. She reiterated this was an issue because of the fears of people that someone other than a man or a woman would get married. Moreover, she cited a legal opinion that stated the statute authorized the issuance of a marriage license between "persons." It also indicated that marriage was a civil contract that could be entered into by males at the age of 21. She did not realize that males had to be 21 and females had to be 18 to get married. She suggested looking at that further. She reiterated the statutes were clear regarding marriage. She reiterated by addressing this issue the legislature was warranting the fears of the people when in fact it was not a fear that the people should be concerned about in Alaska. Number 0598 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said the laws now do prohibit same-sex marriages. However, he believed it should be made clear to the people. This was a painful subject because society was changing. The courts were established to interpret laws and the legislature was established to make laws. Therefore, whether or not certain portions of the bill would be found unconstitutional should be left to the courts. Moreover, according to the animal kingdom, including mankind, homosexuality was an unnatural act. It was becoming more prevalent, however, in society. Society, however, was founded under the laws of God. He was concerned about the Christians testifying that they were in favor of homosexual behavior. He suggested they look at the book that was divinely inspired. It was clear that homosexual relationships were not the will of God according to the Bible. It was a travesty that a society would condone that type of behavior. Therefore, a bill was needed to not recognize the behavior in Alaska and in other states. He said he would support SB 308. Number 0841 CHAIR JAMES said she believed in the statement of "judge not that you be not judged." She felt her responsibility to her God was her own behavior. That was why she did not discriminate against other people. She called it a reciprocal agreement. She reiterated she felt passionate about the traditional concept of marriage. Her district also felt the same way. CHAIR JAMES called for a motion to pass the bill out of the committee. Number 0886 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN said that legal opinions were just opinions. He said there were as many opinions as there were lawyers. He was responding to Ms. Stimler's question of the committee members regarding the legal analysis of the ACLU. Number 0914 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN moved that SB 308 move from the committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal notes. Hearing no objection, it was so moved from the House State Affairs Committee.