Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/18/1996 09:02 AM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
                                                                               
               SB 308 PROHIBIT SAME SEX MARRIAGES                             
                                                                              
 Number 001                                                                    
                                                                               
 VICE-CHAIRMAN LEMAN called the Senate Health, Education and Social            
 Services (HESS) Committee to order at 9:02 a.m. and explained that            
 Chairman Green was ill today.  Due to the lack of a quorum, Vice-             
 Chairman Leman noted that the meeting would be a work session.  He            
 introduced  SB 308  as the only order of business.  He pointed out            
 that there is a sponsor statement in the committee packet which               
 discusses the following three parts of the bill:                              
                                                                               
  * SB 308 clarifies that marriage is a civil contract between                 
    "one man an one woman" which the Department of Law indicates               
        as being current law;                                                  
  * SB 308 also has language which states that same-sex                        
        marriages recognized by other states is not recognized in              
        Alaska;                                                                
  * SB 308 states that a "same-sex relationship may not be                     
        recognized by the state as being entitled to the benefits of           
        marriage."                                                             
                                                                               
 Since none of the witnesses on teleconference had called in, Vice-            
 Chairman Leman took a brief at ease.                                          
                                                                               
 Number 055                                                                    
                                                                               
 ROBERT KNIGHT, Director of Public Policy for the Family Research              
 Council, thanked the committee for inviting him to testify.  He               
 explained that one of Family Research Council's functions is to               
 serve as a clearing house on research about families.  Much                   
 research has been accumulated which illustrates that children do              
 best with a mother and father family and communities with the most            
 intact families are healthier.  Mr. Knight said that much research            
 says that marriage prolongs life like a recent study produced by              
 the American Journal of Sociology.  Mr. Knight stated that the key            
 organizing factor behind all civilization is marriage.  Marriage              
 brings the two sexes together in a unique legal, social, economic,            
 and spiritual union.  Marriage has special protection within the              
 law and the culture because it is indispensable to civilized life.            
 Mr. Knight said that only marriage transforms young men and women             
 into productive, less selfish and more mature husbands and wives              
 and fathers and mothers.  No other relationship affords children              
 the best economic, emotional, and psychological environment.  Mr.             
 Knight emphasized that only since society has drifted from                    
 defensive marriage has society experienced such social problems as            
 divorce, illegitimacy, sexually transmitted diseases, and crime.              
 The answer is to restore the primacy of marriage within the law and           
 the culture.                                                                  
                                                                               
 Number 097                                                                    
                                                                               
 Mr. Knight noted that historically, there have been attempts to               
 redefine marriage beyond the one man, one woman definition.  For              
 instance, in the mid 1800s there were attempts to legalize multiple           
 partner unions, but were rejected.  In 1885, the Supreme Court                
 declared that any state wishing to enter the Union had to have a              
 law regarding the family as being defined by the union of one man             
 and one woman.  Mr. Knight noted that the comparison between the              
 banning of interracial marriages and same-sex marriages is not                
 valid.  A person is born with a skin color and is benign while                
 sexual behavior has everything to do with character, behavior,                
 morality, and society's basic rules of conduct.  Marriage reflects            
 the natural moral and social law all over the world; no society has           
 opened the sexual morality, beyond a one man and one woman                    
 marriage, and survived.  Studies of cultures spanning thousands of            
 years and many continents by a Harvard Sociologist, found that                
 practically all political revolutions that brought about societal             
 collapse were preceded by a sexual revolution that devalued                   
 marriage and the family.  Women and children were the most frequent           
 victims when marriage lost its unique status, as is the case in               
 America's sexual revolution.                                                  
                                                                               
 Mr. Knight stated that giving same-sex relationships or out of                
 wedlock hetrosexual couples the same special status as marriage               
 would not be the expansion of a right, but the destruction of a               
 principal.  If the one man, one woman definition of marriage is               
 broken then there would be no stopping point for the continued                
 assault on marriage.  Mr. Knight pointed out that often feelings              
 are cited as the key requirement in marriage, then why not let                
 three people marry or two people and a child or consenting blood              
 relatives of legal age.  Marriage based kinship is essential to the           
 stability and continuity; a man would be more likely to help a son-           
 in-law than some unrelated man or woman living with his daughter.             
 Same-sex relations are a negation of the continuation of kinship              
 through the procreation of children.  Even childless married                  
 couples retain the possibility of becoming parents biologically or            
 through adoption.  Marriage benefits the two people involved, their           
 children as well as children in the area who seek clues to                    
 appropriate sexual behavior.  Mr. Knight said that creating                   
 motherless and fatherless families is not in the interest of the              
 children or the community; it only benefits a particular political            
 agenda.                                                                       
                                                                               
 Number 157                                                                    
                                                                               
 Mr. Knight discussed the statements of a homosexual activist who              
 urged for the recognition of same-sex marriages and the benefits in           
 order to redefine the institution of marriage.  Another homosexual            
 activist saw gay marriage as a way of forcing society to accept               
 homosexuality.  Mr. Knight indicated that gay literature and                  
 studies say that few gay couples are stable, those that are stable            
 have an understanding allowing outside sexual contact.  Mr. Knight            
 said that the homosexual editor of the New Republic magazine says           
 it is normal that homosexual relationships are different;                     
 homosexual households understand the need for extramarital outlets            
 between two men than between a man and a woman.  In conclusion, Mr.           
 Knight said that those who care about children, morality, and the             
 well-being of society should resist the attempts by a small group             
 to grab marriage for their own purposes.                                      
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN noted that Mr. Knight was welcome to fax his written            
 testimony to the HESS committee at 907-465-3805.                              
                                                                               
 Number 204                                                                    
                                                                               
 MILDRED BOESSER, a Juneau resident, informed the committee that she           
 was 70 years old, has been married for 48 years to the same person,           
 the mother of four, and the grandmother of four.  Ms. Boesser                 
 believed that the concept of traditional marriage could be expanded           
 without harm.  Often people are blind to their own hypocracies.  On           
 the one hand, society says that if marriage cannot procreate it is            
 not viable.  While many marriages do not procreate and are not                
 considered less viable than those that do.  It is often said that             
 families are deteriorating because of the lack of commitment in               
 unwed relationships, while attempts to pass a law that would                  
 prohibit legal commitment between two persons desiring a stable,              
 lifelong, loving relationship are present.  Ms. Boesser pointed out           
 that society wants more support for families, while the fact that             
 many different types of families exist is ignored.  All of these              
 various families, even same-sex families, would benefit from                  
 support.  Ms. Boesser emphasized that this nation has worked to               
 remove discrimination from the laws and our practice, but on the              
 other hand discrimination on the basis of gender continues.  She              
 also noted that the federal Constitution requires states to uphold            
 the judicial proceedings of other states, while SB 308 would not              
 uphold the same-sex marriage contract of any state.                           
                                                                               
 Ms. Boesser discussed the religious paradoxes regarding                       
 homosexuals.  Many Christians believe that God loves everyone                 
 equally while others believe that God loves only those created as             
 they are.  She noted that the Lord did not mention homosexuality at           
 all.  Furthermore, St. Paul spoke about unnatural acts between                
 heterosexuals, without thinking that some people may be homosexual            
 by nature and not by choice.  Ms. Boesser pointed out how many of             
 the moral absolutes of the past have been be proven otherwise, for            
 example, equal rights for women.  However, Ms. Boesser believed in            
 the absolute that eventually right will prevail.  SB 308 is not on            
 the side of right and if it passes it will result in a needless,              
 expensive legal battle.                                                       
                                                                               
 Number 266                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN asked Ms. Boesser where in SB 308 does it say that              
 childless marriages are not viable.  MILDRED BOESSER said that                
 SB 308 does not say that, but many people use that as a reason for            
 not allowing same-sex marriages.  Ms. Boesser explained that was              
 one of the inconsistencies in thinking.  In response to Senator               
 Leman, Ms. Boesser clarified that she addressing both the bill and            
 the inconsistencies in thinking.                                              
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN specified that SB 308 does not address the valid of             
 marriages according to if the marriage procreates or not.                     
                                                                               
 Number 285                                                                    
                                                                               
 MICHAEL JOHNSTON, State Director of the National Campaign to                  
 Protect Marriage, supported SB 308.  SB 308 is a common sense                 
 approach dealing with the following two issues:                               
  * the ambiguity in Alaska's current marriage statutes;                       
  * the lack of a strong public policy regarding same-sex                      
    marriages performed in other states and their claim to the                 
        benefits of marriage.                                                  
 The ambiguity issue arises because of gender neutral language in              
 the current statutes.  Mr. Johnston said that marriage has never              
 been gender neutral and not clarifying the ambiguous language would           
 open the door for debate at the legislative and judicial levels               
 regarding the legislative intent.                                             
                                                                               
 Mr. Johnston informed everyone that Utah and South Dakota have                
 passed legislation similar to that of SB 308 in an attempt to not             
 recognize same-sex marriages adopted in another jurisdiction.                 
 Currently, 22 states have or are considering similar legislation.             
 Mr. Johnston noted that the primary force in introducing bills such           
 as SB 308 is the expected recognition of same-sex marriages in                
 Hawaii.  Many states have faced challenges in their own                       
 jurisdiction by lawsuits from same-sex couples demanding that the             
 state grant marriage licenses without regard for the one man one              
 woman requirement; Alaska is one of those states.  The Brause and             
 Dugan case is currently pending in the Alaska Superior Court.  Mr.            
 Johnston was offended by the fact that a Hawaiian court could be              
 allowed to define marriage for the citizens of Alaska.  He informed           
 the committee of polls done in Anchorage prior to the election of             
 1993 which illustrated that about 70 percent of registered                    
 Anchorage voters opposed giving homosexuals special legal                     
 protections based on their behavior.                                          
                                                                               
 Mr. Johnston supported the right of Alaskans to challenge existing            
 law through the court or the legislative process; SB 308 merely               
 clarifies that discussion of issues such as marriage belong within            
 the state.  He informed everyone that polls in Hawaii indicate that           
 about 80 percent of Hawaiian citizens oppose the recognition of               
 same-sex marriages.  If Hawaii is forced to recognize same-sex                
 marriages by the court, SB 308 would clarify Alaska's legislative             
 intent not to recognize same-sex marriages of other states.                   
 Moreover, SB 308 would establish a strong public policy against               
 same-sex marriages in order to support an exemption from the                  
 constitutional requirement for the state to give full faith and               
 credit to public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of all               
 other states.  Mr. Johnston urged the support of SB 308.                      
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN reiterated that any written statements could be faxed           
 to the HESS committee.                                                        
                                                                               
 Number 344                                                                    
                                                                               
 MARSHA BUCK, mother and member of PFLAG, felt that her daughter was           
 being threatened and discriminated against by those elected to lead           
 the state.  PFLAG Juneau is opposed to SB 308.  She informed the              
 committee that her daughter is in a committed relationship with               
 another Christian woman and wants to marry and establish a legal,             
 stable family which SB 308 would not allow.  Ms. Buck opposed                 
 SB 308 in any form due its discrimination on the basis of gender.             
 Current statutes make it practically impossible for gay, lesbian,             
 and bisexual couples in Alaska to pursue marriage; SB 308 would               
 create an additional layer of discrimination.  SB 308 seems to be             
 mean-spirited and hurtful.                                                    
                                                                               
 Number 377                                                                    
                                                                               
 Ms. Buck posed several questions for the committee to consider as             
 SB 308 is discussed.  She disagreed with Mr. Knight's testimony               
 regarding the discrimination of inter-racial marriages in the                 
 South; Ms. Buck believed that there is much similarity between the            
 discrimination in SB 308 and the discrimination that existed with             
 inter-racial marriages.  Sexual orientation is as much a part of a            
 person as is race; it is not a choice or a lifestyle.  SB 308 is              
 reminiscent of Alaska's history of "No Natives Allowed" signs.  Ms.           
 Buck emphasized that at the beginning of this legislative session,            
 the legislature pledged to remove and reduce government from the              
 personal lives of Alaskans and yet SB 308 does the opposite.  Ms.             
 Buck requested that SB 308 be removed from consideration.                     
                                                                               
 With regard to Ms. Buck's comments that SB 308 sounds and feels               
 like discrimination, SENATOR LEMAN pointed out that the Department            
 of Law believes that SB 308 clarifies what is already law in                  
 Alaska.  Senator Leman asked if Ms. Buck had informed Governor                
 Knowles of her thoughts on SB 308.  MARSHA BUCK specified that                
 these are civil rights issues and if something like SB 308 passes,            
 it may be necessary to challenge it in court.                                 
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN reiterated that the Department of Law believes that             
 SB 308 merely clarifies existing law.  Senator Leman asked Ms. Buck           
 if she believed the existing law to be discriminatory.  MARSHA BUCK           
 said that there may be an opportunity to deal with that.                      
                                                                               
 Number 427                                                                    
                                                                               
 LINNI ESTHER hoped to open the committee members' minds to the                
 importance of supporting gay and lesbian marriages, not SB 308.               
 Not so long ago, parents were matchmakers for their children.  Ms.            
 Esther posed the scenario that gays and lesbians were no different            
 than anyone else; gays and lesbians are people that have                      
 affectional preferences in gender and personality.  She said that             
 all we, gays and lesbians, ask are to be allowed to form legally              
 recognized unions with their loved ones.  Ms. Esther informed the             
 committee that her 51 years as a lesbian was as comfortable to her            
 as being a right handed person.  Two and a half years ago in Juneau           
 Ms. Esther and her partner participated in a commitment ceremony in           
 order to acknowledge their love for one another.  There was no                
 access to a legal union for the couple.  Ms. Esther explained that            
 she and her partner were devoted to each other, monogamous, and               
 form a family that is active in the Juneau community.  Please allow           
 the opportunity for couples such as she and her partner to be                 
 legally recognized within Alaska.                                             
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN mentioned that his grandmother was matched to her               
 husband by her mother and because of that Senator Leman is present            
 today.  LINNI ESTHER asked if that was a choice his grandparents              
 would have made on their own.  Perhaps, Senator Leman would not be            
 here today if they had the choice.                                            
                                                                               
 Number 464                                                                    
                                                                               
 SARA BOESSER, board member of the Committee for Equality, explained           
 that the committee is a statewide organization working for equal              
 rights and responsibilities for gay, lesbian, and bisexual                    
 Alaskans.  The Committee for Equality opposes SB 308.  SB 308                 
 illegally discriminates on the basis of gender and illegally                  
 proclaims that Alaska will not recognize or uphold legal contracts            
 in other states.  Ms. Boesser felt it unfortunate that SB 308 is              
 before the committee without the announcement of teleconference.              
 As of the weekend, there was no teleconference scheduled for                  
 SB 308.  Such a bill should be heard with full public process.  Ms.           
 Boesser believed that SB 308 would eventually be found illegal at             
 the federal level through court action.  Therefore, she recommended           
 that the legislature not pass a law that would result in expensive            
 legal action.                                                                 
                                                                               
 With regard to the charge that SB 308 discriminates on the basis of           
 gender, Ms. Boesser pointed out that forcing a person to                      
 discriminate on the basis of gender in order to receive a state               
 service or benefit violates current state law.  SB 308 breeches               
 federal law by not recognizing other states' contracts. She                   
 believed SB 308 to be the most anti-gay/lesbian bill in the                   
 legislature and asked the committee to consider the negative impact           
 the bill will have on public discourse.  The Juneau Empire printed          
 an article noting that when anti-gay/lesbian bills are presented,             
 there are more hate crimes.  As history would teach us, SB 308 is             
 doomed.                                                                       
 Ms. Boesser also disagreed with Mr. Knight's testimony that gays              
 and lesbians choose to be so.  Most of the current scientific                 
 evidence has found that there are biological features which cause             
 a person to be gay or lesbian.  She informed the committee that she           
 realized she was a lesbian at age 17 and would not have chosen such           
 a difficult life, but would not choose to live a lie either.  Ms.             
 Boesser also believed that SB 308 is very analogous to the laws               
 that were introduced when some states began to recognize inter-               
 racial marriages.  Eventually, the Federal Constitution's full                
 faith and credit clause did overturn those unconstitutional laws;             
 would Alaska want other states to disregard contracts made in                 
 Alaska?  For example, Alaska allows marriages between younger                 
 people than in other states.  Ms. Boesser asked why a bad law,                
 SB 308, should be passed when it will be proven unconstitutional              
 and not without a legal battle.                                               
                                                                               
 Number 511                                                                    
                                                                               
 Ms. Boesser addressed the following arguments that may not be in              
 SB 308, but are used to support not allowing same-sex marriages:              
                                                                               
  * If "marriage is only for procreation," then why wouldn't a                 
        couples' marriage license be held until the couple has                 
        children or why not require couples to sign "procreation               
        pledges."                                                              
  * With regard to the argument that "God made Adam and Eve, not               
       Adam and Steve," Ms. Boesser understood that God made                   
       everyone on the planet some of which she believed God made              
       gay and lesbian.  She pointed out that the apostle Paul                 
       believed that no man should marry at all.  Furthermore,                 
       Jesus never spoke against homosexual persons.  Ms. Boesser              
       informed everyone that same-sex marriages were blessed by               
       the Christian church in the Middle Ages.  The concept of                
       marriage has changed over time and continues to do so.                  
  * The argument that "same-sex marriage destroys the family"                  
        has been used against many groups.  For example, when women            
        wanted to vote many believed that families would be                    
        destroyed if women were allowed to vote.  How fortunate that           
       such beliefs did not suppress the advancement of women                  
   forever.                                                                    
                                                                               
 Ms. Boesser said that there are more such "red herrings" all of               
 which would fail upon full and reasoned discussion.  She believed             
 that SB 308 should be stopped however, if SB 308 does continue                
 there should be many other committee referrals and teleconferences.           
 In conclusion, Ms. Boesser said that decisions regarding who can              
 receive a state marriage license and its benefits should be for the           
 courts to decide.  Ms. Boesser noted that she would submit Dan                
 Carter's testimony to the committee.                                          
                                                                               
 Number 545                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN asked if Ms. Boesser was aware of the apostle Paul's            
 advise about sexual behavior in Romans I and is that consistent             
 with her testimony and understanding of Paul's advise.  SARA                  
 BOESSER did not remember the exact wording of Romans I, but she             
 knew that he advised any man that could refrain from marriage to do           
 so.                                                                           
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN suggested that Ms. Boesser had taken Paul's advise              
 out of context.  Senator Leman explained that Paul meant that if              
 marriage was an obstruction to having a heart for God, then the               
 person should not marry and love God.  SARA BOESSER said that                 
 Senator Leman's explanation is an interpretation.  Ms. Boesser                
 believed that there are gay and lesbian couples that have a heart             
 for God and who would like the church to bless their relationships.           
 Interpretations of the bible too have changed over time.                      
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN recommended that Ms. Boesser read Romans I and then           
 advise this committee on the application of that to legislation               
 such as this.  With regard to Jesus' teachings, Jesus referred to             
 the law which at the time was the scripture.  Jesus reduced the law           
 to the following two tenets:  love the Lord with all your heart and           
 soul and love your neighbor as yourself.  If someone truly loved              
 God, then that person would also keep God's commandments.  SARA               
 BOESSER pointed out that this discussion could continue forever.              
 Fortunately, there are churches that do bless gay and lesbian                 
 relationships.  Ms. Boesser emphasized that there are so many                 
 denominations today because people cannot agree on the                        
 interpretation of the Bible.  Ms. Boesser recalled that Jesus did           
 come forward and indicated that much of the Old Testament was not           
 correct and needed to be clarified.  Jesus produced new teachings             
 such as turn the other check instead of an eye for an eye.  Ms.               
 Boesser did not hear Jesus say anything against gays and lesbians.            
                                                                               
 Number 573                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHERYL COOK said that she had a letter from Dan Cook that she would           
 read.  On her behalf, Ms. Cook pointed out that the U.S. has a                
 separation of church and state and discussions of the Bible should          
 not enter into such arenas.  SENATOR LEMAN asked if Ms. Cook was              
 implying that Sara Boesser was out of order.  CHERYL COOK replied             
 no.  The first witness, Mr. Knight, also brought up biblical                  
 references and this seems to be a moot point.  Personally, Ms. Cook           
 believed that the separation of church and state is one of the                
 foundations of the U.S.                                                       
                                                                               
 In trying to understand Ms. Cook, SENATOR LEMAN surmised that her           
 testimony was that it would be inappropriate to use biblical                  
 references to support a position of SB 308, but it would be                   
 appropriate to use biblical references                                        
                                                                               
 TAPE 96-20, SIDE B                                                            
                                                                               
 that oppose SB 308.  CHERYL COOK replied no and clarified that she            
 wanted to point out that there is a separation of church and state.           
                                                                               
 CHERYL COOK informed the committee that she would be reading a                
 letter from Dan Carter who had attempted to fax.  Mr. Carter was              
 opposed to SB 308.  He hoped that his letter would be read since              
 there was no teleconference scheduled for SB 308.  Mr. Carter has             
 been an Alaskan resident for almost 20 years and was proud of                 
 Alaska's tradition of being a land of relative tolerance.  He                 
 informed the committee that he and his partner will celebrate their           
 27th year together on March 21, 1996.  Mr. Carter reiterated                  
 previous points regarding the history of interracial couples and              
 the notion that same-sex relationships destroy the family as he               
 noted that legislators do not have control or responsibility over             
 love between two adults.  His same-sex relationship has not                   
 destroyed his family.  Mr. Carter had heard that marriage is a                
 religious contract that could not be changed by law.  If that is so           
 and a church performs a same-sex marriage, then SB 308 would                  
 discriminate against that religious view.  Mr. Carter requested a             
 reply to his letter.  In conclusion, Mr. Carter suggested that the            
 legislature's time as well as the state's time would be better                
 spent encouraging committed couples to remain together rather than            
 on this frivolous bill.                                                       
                                                                               
 Number 548                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN asked Ms. Cook if she considered SB 308 frivolous.              
 CHERYL COOK, speaking for herself, said that SB 308 may be an                 
 unnecessary bill.  The Department of Law believes that SB 308                 
 clarifies existing law and therefore, SB 308 may be a waste of                
 time.  SENATOR LEMAN pointed out that often statutes are revised              
 when the law has not changed in order to clarify for discord or               
 litigation over the interpretation of the law.  Revising the                  
 statutes can actually reduce litigations.  CHERYL COOK did not                
 believe that to be the case with SB 308.                                      
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN asked Ms. Cook if she could provide the                         
 constitutional citation to support her earlier statement regarding            
 the deeply rooted tradition of the separation of church and state.            
 CHERYL COOK could not cite the citation and did not know if there             
 was such.  SENATOR LEMAN said that there is no citation in the                
 Federal Constitution.  CHERYL COOK recalled that one of the reasons           
 people came from England was to get away from the church.  SENATOR            
 LEMAN specified that this country was founded on the idea that                
 there would be no established religion.  There is an establishment            
 clause which states that there would be no established church in              
 the U.S. that everyone would be required to belong as in England.             
 The separation is from the requirement to participate in a                    
 particular religious activity.                                                
                                                                               
 Number 506                                                                    
                                                                               
 STEVE FITSCHEN, Executive Director of the National Legal                      
 Foundation, informed the committee that homosexual and lesbian law            
 professors are publishing articles suggesting that homosexual                 
 couples from states other than Hawaii should have their marriages             
 recognized in Hawaii, return to their own state and try to have the           
 marriage recognized.  The National Legal Foundation believes that             
 to be detrimental to the individual states as well as the nation,             
 therefore, states should act now.  States should utilize the strong           
 public policy exception, as SB 308 does, in order to protect                  
 against the state court forcing the state to recognize a same-sex             
 marriage of another state.  The issue at hand is should this                  
 procedure be followed; why should the traditional recognition of              
 marriage be protected?                                                        
                                                                               
 Mr. Fitschen said that often the type of legal challenge brought              
 forth in these cases is equal protection.  The foundation believes            
 that none of the limits of marriage could stand up to equal                   
 protection if any one falls.  Mr. Fitschen said that if one man-one           
 woman fell to equal protection, then incest would fall to equal               
 protection and all the traditional parameters would fall. Mr.                 
 Fitschen quoted the U.S. Supreme Court case Murphy v Ramsey which             
 reviewed a statute that defined marriage as one man and one woman             
 as saying, "For certainly, no legislation can be supposed more                
 wholesome and necessary in the founding of a free, self governing             
 commonwealth fit to take rank as one of the coordinate states of              
 the Union in that which seeks to establish it on the basis of the             
 idea of the family as consisting in and springing from the union              
 for life of one man and one woman in the holy estate of matrimony."           
 The foundation agrees with that.  Mr. Fitschen encouraged Alaska to           
 protect itself from challenges in the court.                                  
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN asked that the remaining witnesses keep their                   
 testimony brief due to the lack of time left.                                 
                                                                               
 Number 457                                                                    
                                                                               
 REVEREND HOWARD BESS, American Baptist Minister and Pastor of the             
 Church of the Covenant, informed the committee that he was the                
 author of the book, Pastor, I am Gay.  He has officiated at several         
 holy unions.  Reverend Bess opposed SB 308.  In his experience,               
 Reverend Bess has found that same-sex relationships are as                    
 committed, monogamous, and stable as heterosexual marriages.                  
 Reverend Bess explained that a large number of Alaska's gay and               
 lesbian population would not be testifying today because they are             
 frightened by the public hatred and rejection.  Reverend Bess                 
 believed that whether or not gay and lesbian couples should be                
 protected and receive the same privileges as heterosexual marriages           
 will be decided in other arenas.  The Brausse v Dugan case in                 
 Alaska will define this in the courts.  Reverend Bess hoped that              
 SB 308 would die before reaching the floor.                                   
                                                                               
 SUSAN HARGIS informed the committee that she is a tax-payer, a                
 property-owner, a community volunteer, and a lesbian.  Ms. Hargis             
 stressed that she did not want special rights, only the same rights           
 that other Alaskans receive.  She noted that she is in a committed            
 relationship that she plans to have her entire life.  By not being            
 able to marry, Ms. Hargis explained that when her partner was                 
 having surgery for cancer the hospital informed her that if her               
 partner died they could not talk with her.  After the will is                 
 probated, Ms. Hargis would be allowed to be involved.  Therefore,             
 Ms. Hargis is not allowed the same rights and responsibilities to             
 her partner that she expected; currently, the state prohibits her             
 from exercising those.  Ms. Hargis informed the committee that she            
 and her partner own a house together and if one of them dies, the             
 remaining partner is left in a different situation for inheritance            
 taxes.  Currently, their income taxes are different.                          
                                                                               
 Number 399                                                                    
                                                                               
 Ms. Hargis said that there are many children in her life.  She                
 preferred that children see two people that are in a stable                   
 relationship and learn that people in a long-term committed                   
 relationship are in marriages.  Ms. Hargis sensed that the fear is            
 about sex not love.  No matter if SB 308 passes, Ms. Hargis said              
 that she would remain in her current relationship.  Therefore, she            
 requested the same legal protections and responsibilities as other            
 heterosexual Alaskans.  Ms. Hargis believed that marriage is a                
 contract between two people and it is not for the government to               
 legislate between whom that contract can be made.  With regards to            
 Mildred Boesser's testimony on the procreation argument in Hawaii,            
 Hawaii used that as part of the legislative argument.  Since SB 308           
 in part addresses the Hawaiian bill, Mildred Boesser's statements             
 are appropriate.                                                              
                                                                               
 Ms. Hargis said that there is research that suggests that being gay           
 or lesbian is mainly biological possibly with a choice component.             
 She noted that she would not have chosen to be a lesbian.  She                
 informed the committee that one of the cultures in China does                 
 recognize same-sex marriages as well as in Denmark.  As the Chair             
 of the Southeast Alaska Gay and Lesbian Alliance (SEGLA), Ms.                 
 Hargis opposed SB 308.                                                        
                                                                               
 Number 365                                                                    
                                                                               
 DANIEL COLLISON, SEGLA Board Member and Big Brothers Volunteer,               
 discussed his experience with his Little Brother when the two made            
 dams in order to learn about the coming of the tide.  SB 308 is a             
 weak and feeble obstruction meant to dam equal rights and                     
 opportunities.  Civil liberties were first extended to a group of             
 wealthy and privileged white men.  Throughout history such                    
 discrimination with civil liberties has been challenged.  These               
 challenges have led to such laws as the Jim Crow laws which have              
 been found to be unconstitutional by the courts.  Mr. Collison                
 emphasized that now the gay and lesbian minority's rights should be           
 recognized.  Special rights are not sought, only equal rights.  He            
 pointed out that because he is gay his employer could dismiss him             
 from his job, he could be refused a table in a restaurant, and even           
 be evicted from his housing.  If SB 308 were enacted, Mr. Collison            
 felt that the state would be discriminating against him by refusing           
 the recognition and the associated benefits of his union with a               
 male partner.  The legislature has more important concerns than               
 creating obstacles against the belief that all persons are created            
 equal and possess inalienable rights not to be denied by the state.           
 Mr. Collison urged the defeat of SB 308.                                      
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN inquired as to what are the rights.  DANIEL COLLISON            
 clarified that he spoke to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  SENATOR             
 LEMAN asked what the constitution said.  DANIEL COLLISON reiterated           
 that he was speaking to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which                    
 guarantees non discrimination in employment, housing, and public              
 accommodations.  SB 308 would deny Mr. Collison in a union with a             
 male partner, the recognition of that union as well as the                    
 associated benefits.  SENATOR LEMAN said that the Federal                     
 Constitution guarantees and protects the right to life, liberty,              
 and the pursuit of happiness.  That will become more important as             
 the debate continues.  DANIEL COLLISON clarified that the pursuit             
 of happiness in the manner in which one would choose.  SENATOR                
 LEMAN noted that Mr. Collison was not denied a place at this table.           
                                                                               
 Number 291                                                                    
                                                                               
 LAUREN CHAMPAGNE, National Association of Social Workers, requested           
 the opportunity to speak without being interrupted.  She explained            
 that the National Association of Social Workers is a professional             
 organization representing thousands of social workers at the                  
 doctorate, masters, and bachelor level throughout the U.S.  The               
 Alaska chapter represents about 400 social workers.  The NASW met             
 in 1994, prepared, and published a policy statement which stated              
 that social workers are committed to ending discrimination based on           
 sexual orientation.  She said that she would provide that                     
 information to the committee.  Ms. Champagne believed that                    
 discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation promotes other              
 behavior such as hate crime.  The association is focusing on issues           
 of hate crime this month in order to help young people to work                
 against violence.  The National Association of Social Workers                 
 opposes SB 308 and views the bill as discriminatory.                          
                                                                               
 Speaking as a social worker, Ms. Champagne reminded the two members           
 present that for citizens to come forward and speak before a                  
 committee requires much courage and effort.  When a citizen comes             
 before a committee with a camera focused on them, that citizen                
 faces great risks.  Interruptions, smirks, rolling of the eyes, or            
 note writing is very disrespectful to the process.  Ms. Champagne             
 reminded the members of the position of power they are in and the             
 responsibility they have to their constituents.  Ms. Champagne                
 suggested that the members read Thomas Jefferson if interested in             
 issue of the separation of church and state.                                  
                                                                               
 Number 218                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN felt it only fair that he respond.  Senator Leman had           
 not seen any rolling of the eyes or smirking from the committee               
 today.  LAUREN CHAMPAGNE clarified that she was referring to he and           
 Senator Miller during Pastor Bess' testimony via teleconference.              
 SENATOR LEMAN was unaware of any smirking or rolling of the eyes              
 during any testimony other than some by the audience.  Senator                
 Leman considered such actions by the audience as reactions to                 
 strong feelings.  LAUREN CHAMPAGNE said that the audience is not in           
 a position of power.  SENATOR LEMAN believed that everyone had                
 power; one person, one vote.  Senator Leman acknowledged the                  
 difficulty for people to come forward which is why written and                
 teleconferenced testimony is accepted.  Senator Leman wished that             
 all the committee members could have been present today, but their            
 staff was present.                                                            
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN held SB 308.  He announced that the next committee              
 hearing would be Wednesday on the agenda scheduled.                           

Document Name Date/Time Subjects