Columns 2015

Alaska should not have joined the lawsuit questioning the legality of gay marriage

I have generally been impressed with Governor Walker. He seems to take a clean line down the middle of the ideological spectrum, which is where most of us live. He’s taking a pragmatic approach to the budget, doesn’t seem inclined to generating headlines for outlandish behavior and appears to usually have the interests of all Alaskans at heart. But now that he’s taken such a hands off approach to his administration’s joining a lawsuit seeking to reduce some of our citizens to second-class status, I find myself much less impressed.

He declined to interfere when his attorney general joined a lawsuit appealing the prohibition of same sex marriage as unconstitutional. He seems to imply that, once appointed, his choices for various state positions then act independently with no need for their choices to in anyway mirror his stance on issues. I find that a bit hard to believe. Isn’t the reason these positions are appointed is so that each governor has people in place who follow his agenda? Many of us vote for a candidate based on that candidate’s stated position on a wide variety of topics. I do not expect that person to turn around after being elected and act as though the actions of their subordinates are beyond their control. As that sign on Harry Truman’s desk so eloquently stated, “The buck stops here.”

The other thing that truly bothers me is that I thought Bill Walker meant it when he ran as an independent who would represent all Alaskans. Did I miss the section in his mailers and position statements where he said that he would represent equality for all Alaskans except those of the LGBT community? Is there a more fundamental right you can possibly deny someone than to deny them the right to form a legal union and raise a family recognized by the state as fully and completely legitimate?

Governor Walker’s fallback is that his attorney general is merely upholding the law of the state as enshrined in the state constitution. The fact that higher court rulings have made it clear that denying people the right to marry is illegal doesn’t seem to faze him. And given that our United States Constitution once counted people of color as only partial people and women as too airheaded to be given the vote, it seems fairly clear that parts of the law of any land are going to change as society evolves. The right to marry the person of our choice, so long as that person is an adult capable of making their own decision, is something absolutely fundamental in a free society.

There are some in our state who feel their religion precludes them from accepting gay marriage in any shape or form. I fully support their right to not marry gay couples in their religious ceremonies, though I find their use of the Bible to justify their actions rather suspect. The Bible also permits slavery and killing your children. Somehow Christians have managed to discard those tenets as a product of a different time and culture, no longer relevant in today’s world. Yet they cherry pick statements made in that same far away time and culture to deny basic civil rights to an entire group of our citizens. I find that a rather extraordinary denial of the reality that the Bible contains all kinds of prohibitions discarded by civilizations through the ages.

In the end though, this is about civil rights, not religious beliefs. So I am very disappointed at the way Governor Walker is ducking this issue and acting as though it’s just a little legal hiccup and not something that attempts to deny some Alaskans a very fundamental right. He appointed his attorney general and I’m betting he can call him and tell him to back off and that would be well within his authority. The issue of prohibiting same sex marriage is at the Supreme Court with or without Alaska’s participation. Nothing said in Alaska’s brief is new or breaking exciting legal ground. There is absolutely no reason for Alaska to have joined this lawsuit unless the governor’s message is that bigotry enshrined in our constitution should be defended at all costs no matter who is being hurt by it.

You can be better than that, Governor Walker. At least, I thought you could be. Now I’m not so sure.