Alaska Hub




Monday Speed Read: Taxes, Alaska, Texas, Project One America, Boy Scouts, Asian Commission

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

ALASKA COURT TAX VICTORY: Aclu_alaska

In a partial victory, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled unanimously Friday that a tax break given to seniors and people with disabilities “potentially treats same-sex couples less favorably than it treats opposite-sex couples.” The ACLU-led case, State v. Schmidt, was appealed to the high court by the state and Anchorage on behalf of three same-sex couples. The court ruled that the denial of the partial property tax exemption to same-sex couples who cannot marry violates the equal protection guarantee of the state constitution. (The ruling did not include the third couple because neither partner formally owned the property.) In its decision, the court said the state’s existing ban on same-sex marriages does not prohibit or permit the state to offer or deny a benefit it grants to married couples to same-sex couples “who demonstrate they are similarly situated to married couples.” Committed same-sex couples who want to marry,” said the decision, “are similarly situated to opposite-sex couples who want to marry.”

NellermoeDIVORCE DELAYED:

A Texas appeals court on Thursday granted a request to stay a state district judge’s ruling that the state “cannot discriminate against same-sex couples” and that the state’s ban against allowing same-sex couples to marry violates the child’s right to equal protection of the law. The Austin Statesman reports that the appeals court in San Antonio granted state Attorney General Greg Abbott’s request for an emergency stay of the ruling. Abbott said Judge Barbara Nellermoe’s ruling in the lesbian divorce and custody case last Tuesday could create “legal chaos.” The appeals court has set a May 5 deadline for briefs in the appeal.

PoaSHORING UP THE SOUTH:

The Human Rights Campaign Saturday announced a three-year, $8.5 million project to help improve legal protections for LGBT people living in three southern states. The campaign, called Project One America, will also devote a staff of 20 people concentrating on Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi –the states where, says an HRC press release, “there are no non-discrimination protections for LGBT people at the state or local level in employment, housing or public accommodations, and where each state’s constitution expressly prohibits marriage equality.” HRC says it has 57,000 members in these three states.

BsaBOY SCOUT BELLY FLOP:

Legal counsel for the Louisville Metro Council advised the local Boy Scouts troop last week that the city could not pay for the group to use a local pool because the Boy Scouts’ policy exhibits “intentional discrimination.” The Louisville Courier-Journal reported April 25 that at least $45,000 in city money was appropriated for scout activities last year. It said the troop’s assistant scoutmaster threatened to end scout volunteer work at local park clean-ups in retaliation it the city doesn’t provide the financial assistance.

TWO NAMED TO ASIAN COMMISSION:

Two of the 14 newly named members of President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are openly gay. One is the head of Asia Services in Action, Inc., Michael Byun, of Ohio; the other is actor Maulik Pancholy, best known for is secondary roles on the hit series 30 Rock and Weeds.

© copyright 2014 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


Alaska Senate Minority Leader Hollis French Introduces Legislation to Repeal State's Gay Marriage Ban

Alaska's Senate Minority Leader Hollis French (D-Anchorage) has introduced legislation that would strike down the state's ban on same-sex marriage, the AP reports:

FrenchIn a statement, French said passage of his constitutional amendment would let Alaska voters "remove this blot on our state constitution."

The proposal was introduced Monday.

To pass, the proposal would need a two-thirds vote in each the Alaska Senate and the House before it could qualify for the ballot...French told reporters he has had some casual conversations with other legislators about his proposal but "felt more morally compelled to file it than out of any sort of a vote-counting exercise." He later called it a civil rights issue.

It's unclear what kind of chances French's proposal has of advancing. Republicans currently control both chambers of the state’s legislature.

A recent PPP poll showed that a majority in Alaska now support same-sex marriage, a 9 point shift over the last year.

The Alaska Senate Democrats posted Hollis's full statement:

“I believe that we as a nation have been engaged in, and are in the middle of, a long march towards marriage equality. The reason is that we all have, in the bottom of our souls, a deep belief in the four cardinal American virtues: freedom, justice, liberty, and equality,” stated Senator French.

If passed by the legislature, Senator French’s resolution would put the constitutional question before the Alaskan voters this fall.

“There are rapid changes happening in the legal landscape on this issue. Last year the US Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Windsor that the Defense of Marriage Act’s ban on same-sex marriages was invalid as to lawfully married same-sex couples. Since then a series of court decisions in Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia have used the legal reasoning in Winsdor to invalidate state bans on same-sex marriage. The day is not far off when the US Supreme Court rules that state prohibitions on same-sex marriage are inconsistent with freedom, justice, liberty, and equality. Passage of this resolution will allow Alaskan voters to remove this blot on our state constitution through our own action,” said Senator French.


Alaska Senate Leader on Gay Marriage: 'If You Can't See It Coming, Your Eyes Are Closed'

On Thursday, Alaska Senate Minority Leader Hollis French (D-Anchorage) spoke favorably of the inevitability of nationwide marriage equality, saying “If you can’t see it coming, your eyes are closed.”  

Hollis frenchThe AP reports:

French said he believed the U.S. Supreme Court would ultimately take up the issue and find denying an adult the right to marry whomever he or she wants violates the equal protection clause.

He called it an exciting legal development.

Although Alaska voters in 1998 approved a state constitutional amendment defining marriage between a man and a woman, significant pro-equality progress has been made since that time. Last year, both U.S. Senators from Alaska, Democrat Mark Begich and Republican Lisa Murkowski came out in support of marriage equality.

Additionally, a recent poll out by the Freedom to Marry shows voters in Alaska and other western states where same-sex marriage continues to be illegal now favor marriage equality by a 19-point-margin (53% favor, 34% oppose).


News: Anchorage, AT&T, Transgender Student, Sarah Palin

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Elizabeth Berkley to dance to "I'm So Excited" on Dancing With The Stars

Bag6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Man retrieves his luggage at baggage claim only to find it plastered with the words "I am gay." Airline claims they "are taking this matter very seriously."

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b New poll: One in six LGBT Brits have been the victim of a hate crime.

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Meg Ryan to star in television series.

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Madonna banned from movie theater for texting on her Blackberry.

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Michael Douglas confesses to lying about the type of cancer he was diagnosed with in 2010: "But the surgeon said, 'Let's just say it's throat cancer.' I said 'OK, you don't want to say it's tongue cancer?' I said 'Why's that?' and he said, 'Well, if you really want to know why, if we do have to have surgery it's not going to be pretty. You'll lose part of you jaw and your tongue and all of that stuff.' So I said, 'OK sure.'"

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Will Young hopes to stop school kids from using the word "gay" as a slur.

Utah6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Transgender University of Northern Iowa student crowned homecoming queen.

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Anchorage Chamber of Commerce hopes to give LGBT community support from local businesses: "'The social debates are happening outside of what we're doing,' said Andrew Halcro, the chamber president. 'This is really focusing on the economy and the economic benefits of inclusivity.'"

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Lesbian couple in Utah claims discrimination from manager at AT&T store. The company is investigating the charges.

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz, who initially supported the government shutdown, are now protesting it in Washington, DC.

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Palin also appeared in New Jersey to support Cory Booker Senate rival, Steve Lonegan.

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Judge: Ban on gay men giving blood in Northern Ireland is irrational.


Alaska State Personnel Board Votes to Include Same-Sex Partners as 'Family'

Back in August we reported that the Alaska Division of Personnel and Labor Relations was considering changing the definition of "family" to include same-sex partners.

AlaskaYesterday, it did, the AP reports:

The board adopted new wording in regulations that allows state employees to take leave due to a serious health condition involving a same-sex partner and include same-sex partners in the definition of immediate family for that purpose.

To be eligible, the rules state the same-sex partners must provide proof that they meet five of eight criteria, including such things as a joint mortgage or rental agreement, joint ownership of a vehicle or being named as the primary beneficiary in a partner's will.

Same-sex marriage is barred under Alaska's constitution. But the Alaska Supreme Court in 2005 found it is unconstitutional to offer valuable benefits to the spouses of public employees but not to same-sex domestic partners.

The language on leaves was adopted unanimously but the board voted 2-1 on the definition of 'family', with one member opposing.

More here.


Alaska State Personnel Board May Change Definition Of 'Family' To Include Same-Sex Partners

AlaskaAlaska state employees may soon be able to use their leave to take care of a same-sex partner, thanks to a recent announcement by the State Personnel Board. Current rules only allow those employees to take leave to care for "immediate family members", and Alaska currently bans same-sex marriage. That said, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that it was unconstitutional to offer valuable benefits to opposite-sex couples but not to same-sex couples. 

Nancy Sutch, a deputy director within the state Division of Personnel and Labor Relations, told the AP that, since the state employee system already has the system in place to offer health benefits, allowing same-sex couples to take advantage of other benefits could seem like the logical next step:

"Same-sex partners of state employees currently can qualify to be on their insurance, provided certain requirements are met. For example, couples must certify, among other things, that they’ve been in committed, exclusive relationships for at least the past year and plan to continue that relationship indefinitely. They also must have lived together for at least a consecutive year and consider themselves to be members of each other’s immediate family."

Alaska equalityThe State Personnel Board's consideration of the issue came after attorneys, from the ACLU and others, wrote the commissioners of Corrections and Administration on behalf of one of their corrections officers. The officer had a same-sex partner who was suffering from cancer and obtaining treatment in Seattle. Unfortunately, the current rule does not include same-sex partners as "family" for the purposes of personal leave. 

Aclu_alaskaTom Stenson, legal director for ACLU of Alaska, told the AP that many criticize members of the LGBT community for seeking "special treatment". That said:

“You don’t have to be a great humanitarian or anything to realize people need support at those times and that is what the law is there to protect. People shouldn’t have to suffer through cancer alone because they’re gay...this is such a basic human right, to be able to support somebody when they’re getting medical treatment. It’s so fundamental it’s hard for me to see what the counter argument is.”

The State Personnel Board will consider the changes during a meeting in Anchorage, which is scheduled to take place on September 19.


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