• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
4m 12s

Sexual orientation debate reignites in Juneau

By Rhonda McBride 5:40 AM February 25, 2014

In one day, an ongoing struggle for acceptance was heard in two legislative arenas.

JUNEAU – On the day a Senate committee was to take up a bill banning discrimination against Alaskans due to sexual orientation, the Senate minority leader called for a constitutional amendment to legalize same-sex marriage.

Sen. Hollis French, (D) Anchorage, said it was his conscience that drove him to push for the measure, even though he concedes it will be hard for the amendment to win the two-thirds vote in both the Senate and the House necessary for passage.

Still, French is hopeful.

“I think you’ll be surprised by some of the folks who may support it, maybe more quietly than others,” French said. “But I think most folks can see that this is the right thing to do.”

French said recent legal decisions around the country have convinced him that it’s time to bring the same-sex marriage debate back to Alaska.

“I think the march of history is absolutely clear,” said French, who believes Alaskans will look back on this era in the way people look back on the time when interracial marriages were prohibited by law.

The Senate majority leader argues that the state’s history on this issue is also very clear.

“It’s a debate raging in America, and Alaska spoke on it,” said Sen. John Coghill, (R) Fairbanks.

Coghill is referring to the constitutional amendment voters passed in 1998.

The measure said that in order to be valid or recognized by the state, “a marriage may only exist between one man and one woman.”

“I’ll give Senator French the benefit of the doubt. It’s a noble thing in his mind,” Coghill said. “But like I say, I fundamentally disagree.”

“It’s a different point of view, and we work in different points of view down here,” said Coghill, who stopped short of saying whether he would give French’s measure a hearing in his Judicial Committee, one of the key stops along the way for the amendment. Coghill did say it’s a legislative discussion that should be carried on with respect.

Another measure, Senate Bill 131, may have more chance for passage. If passed, it would outlaw discrimination against Alaskans based on “sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”

The bill would give the State Human Rights Commission the responsibility to protect victims of such discrimination, just as it now does in cases of racial or religious discrimination.

“It’s a civil rights bill,” said Sen. Berta Gardner, one of SB 131’s main sponsors. “And people all over this state are watching with great interest and concern.”

During almost two hours of testimony Monday, there appeared to be widespread support for the bill.

Many of those who testified told lawmakers on the Health and Social Services Committee they had personally experienced discrimination.

Drew Phoenix, who was born a female — but has since taken on the identity of a man — testified that he has faced discrimination in housing.

“I was denied housing, simply for being who I am,” Phoenix said.

For others like Glenn Cravez, an Anchorage lawyer, it’s also a personal struggle. Cravez told lawmakers he has two sons.

“One is straight. One is gay,” Cravez said. “I want both my sons to be treated the same in the eyes of the law.”

Theda Pittman, an Anchorage gay rights activist, spoke proudly of her military service and being a lesbian. But she recalled a time when she tried to hide her sexual identity.

“I had to lie about who I loved,” Pittman said. “No one would think my partner and I shared a room.”

Kimberly Hubbard, a state worker in Juneau, trembled as she spoke.

“I can’t begin to express in words the anxiety, stress and fear that comes along when you constantly hide who you are,” Hubbard said.

Jeff Rogers of Juneau told lawmakers that it’s likely people they love and care about could be affected by discrimination.

“I made the call home in October to my parents to say I’m in love with a man, and he’s moving in.  And that love I felt for my parents was extraordinary,” Rogers said. “But I will say to members of this committee and members of the Legislature, you too may get this call someday from your son or daughter – or niece or brother or sister.”

In one day, an ongoing struggle for acceptance was heard in two legislative arenas: a proposed constitutional amendment and a bill that seeks to end discrimination. And the debate, as always, strikes an emotional pitch with no quiet resolution in sight.

After introduction on the Senate floor, SJR 30 — Hollis French’s constitutional amendment — has been referred to the judicial and finance committees.

After Monday’s testimony, SB 131 remained in the Health and Social Services Committee. It also has a referral to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Latest Stories

  • News

    In Kotzebue, traditional Native diet coming to longterm care facilities

    by Emily Carlson on Apr 26, 14:32

      Diet isn’t just about food — it’s about history; it’s about identity. A new program in Kotzebue will allow some Native elders the chance to again enjoy the tastes of their culture. On a wintry afternoon in the Northwestern community, an eclectic bunch gathered at the Maniilaq Association to eat traditional Native food. For most, it’s […]

  • News

    Stand with Nepal: How Alaskans can help the earthquake victims

    by Sierra Starks on Apr 26, 14:03

    Following Saturday’s devastating Himalayan earthquake, support and relief funds from nations and charities around the world are pouring in. The U.S. is sending a disaster response team and has pledged $1 million in aid to Nepal. Shipments of medical aid and other relief supplies are also headed to the area. About two dozen members of […]

  • Sports

    Soccer scores: Lady Lynx run away with 11-0 victory over Bartlett

    by KTVA Sports on Apr 26, 13:04

    It did not take long for the Dimond offense to get going against Bartlett Saturday morning with an 11-0 blowout over the Bears. Tatumn Willis got things going in the first half, collecting a rebound off the goalie and finding the back of the net to put the Lady Lynx up 1-0. Willis would add […]

  • News

    Christian Pilots Association of Alaska looking for new members

    by Dave Leval on Apr 26, 10:26

    An Alaska organization says help is needed for those who love to fly — and are passionate about their religion. Various private planes took center stage Saturday at Tanalian Aviation at Merrill Field Airport. They make up the fleet of the Christian Pilots Association of Alaska, a volunteer, nonprofit group in which pilots and planes are […]

  • Politics

    Alaska House, Senate negotiators reach agreement on budget

    by Associated Press on Apr 25, 23:13

    House and Senate negotiators have reached agreement on a state operating budget, and proposed a way to fund government through the end of this fiscal year without potentially having to draw from the constitutional budget reserve fund. The committee proposed using $1.1 billion in forward-funding for education for the fiscal year beginning July 1, to […]

  • News

    Nepali community in Anchorage hit hard by news of earthquake

    by Sierra Starks on Apr 25, 23:09

    After hearing about the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal near the country’s capital, Jeet Tamang was relieved to finally be able to talk to his family Saturday. “The whole world is trying to call over there,” said Tamang. “And it’s really hard to get through.” The death toll from the devastating Nepal quake now stands […]

  • Sports

    Iditarod musher Steve Watkins safe, was climbing Everest during Nepal earthquake

    by KTVA Sports on Apr 25, 20:22

      Army veteran and 2015 Iditarod rookie Steve Watkins was unharmed, as of Saturday afternoon, less than 24 hours after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. The epicenter of the quake was 130 miles from Mount Everest, where Watkins was in the process of climbing to the summit. According to his girlfriend, Joy Chairusmi, Watkins was at […]

  • News

    How Alaska can benefit from US taking chair of Arctic Council

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Apr 25, 11:56

    The University of Alaska Anchorage hosted a live-stream presentation Friday as the U.S. took over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council, a group of eight nations with Arctic territory and six indigenous Arctic organizations. The goal is to encourage cooperation to protect the Arctic environment while ensuring responsible development. Between retreating sea ice, warming temperatures, shipping, […]