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Alaska Congressman Makes 'Hurtful' Remarks In Wake Of Teen's Suicide, Says Gay Marriage Is 'Bullshazzle'

YoungAlaska's lone congressman Don Young, the House of Representatives' longest serving Republican member, made comments recently at a Wasilla, Alaska high school that have been labeled 'hurtful' by the school's principal Amy Spargo. Alaska Dispatch News reports that many present at the assembly where Young spoke to students found Young's comments on suicide and gay marriage to be both offensive and disrespectful.

Young was asked by teacher Carl Swick about Alaska's high rates of suicide and domestic violence and what particularly he is doing to curb these trends. Young began talking about the role of alcohol and depression in these instances and then, according to witnesses, commented that suicide shows a lack of support from friends and family:

"When I heard 'a lack of support from family' and I heard 'a lack of support from friends,' I felt the oxygen go out of the room, but I gasped as well," Spargo said. "It just isn't true in these situations. It's just such a hurtful thing to say." 

Both Spargo and Swick say a friend of the victim, moved by emotion, shouted at Young, “He had friends. He had support.”

“The kid said, ‘It’s depression -- you know, a mental illness,' ” Spargo recalled. As she remembers, Young replied, “ ‘Well, what, do you just go to the doctor and get diagnosed with suicide?’ ”

At some point during the exchange, several school staffers say, the congressman also used either the words "---hole” or “smartass.” 

Young’s office issued a statement about his conduct Tuesday evening in response to a request from Alaska Dispatch News. 

“Congressman Young was very serious and forthright when discussing the issue of suicide, in part because of the high number of tragedies that affect Alaskan youth. He discussed what he believes are leading causes of youth suicide in our state and shared some suggestions for helping family members and friends who are dealing with suicidal thoughts,” spokesman Matt Shuckerow wrote in an email. “In no way did Congressman Young mean to upset anyone with his well-intentioned message. In light of the tragic events affecting the Wasilla High School community, he should have taken a much more sensitive approach.”

Later in the assembly, student Zachary Grier asked Young about his position on same-sex marriage:

“I asked why is it so bad in your eyes?” Grier said.

As Spargo described it, Young answered, “You can’t have marriage with two men. What do you get with two bulls?”

Witnesses say Young then said something about a lot of "bullshazzle" or some word resembling the more familiar obscenity.

“At that point I was heading for the microphone," the principal said. "It was time to be done.” The hour was up, she said, and the tone of the discussion was getting argumentative.

Afterwards, Young spoke with Spargo on his way out and, according to Spargo, said of the student who spoke up about their friend who had recently comitted suicide, "That boy needs to learn some respect."


WATCH: Plaintiffs in Challenge to Alaska's Gay Marriage Ban Marry in Anchorage

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Stephanie Pearson and Courtney Lamb, one of the five same-sex couples that successfully sued the state of Alaska for the right to marry, exchanged vows outside the Frontier Building in Anchorage earlier this morning, KTVA reports

“Quite the emotional roller coaster it’s been,” said Lamb, smiling from ear to ear. “But very worth it in the end. Today is a great day.”

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Ninth Circuit Grants Temporary Stay on Gay Marriages In Alaska Pending SCOTUS Appeal

Same-sex marriage in Alaska, which began Monday after a federal judge overturned the state's gay marriage ban, has now been placed on temporary hold by the Ninth Circuit in order to allow the state time to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. 

The Washington Blade reports:

AlaskaAccording to the two-page order, same-sex weddings are stayed until Friday at 12 pm Pacific Time (3 pm Eastern Time) to give state officials the opportunity to obtain an additional stay from the Supreme Court. But if the Supreme Court declines to halt the weddings, the Ninth Circuit stay will dissolve by that deadline. [...]

Adam Romero, federal legal director for the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the stay has the effect of creating “tiny window” for the Supreme Court to consider a stay before same-sex marriages continue in Alaska.

“Given the Supreme Court’s recent decisions on similar requests, I expect the Court to deny a stay to Alaska, which will result in same-sex marriage coming to Alaska while the states exhausts its appeals,” Romero said. “On the merits, I see no scenario, in the present circumstances, in which the Ninth Circuit does not strike down Alaska’s ban, or Arizona’s or Montana’s bans for that matter.”

On Friday, the Supreme Court lifted a similar stay in the Ninth Circuit ruling overturning Idaho's gay marriage ban. 

Read the order granting temporary stay below via Equality Case Files


Federal Judge Denies Stay of Ruling That Struck Down Alaska's Gay Marriage Ban; State Asks 9th Circuit To Intervene

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After Federal Judge Timothy Burgess ruled on Monday that Alaska's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, the state requested a stay of the ruling that would effectively halt same-sex marriage in the Land of the Midnight Sun. Judge Burgess yesterday denied that request. Unsatisfied with that result, Alaska then asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has appellate jurisdiction in Alaska, to step in and grant an emergency stay, halting Judge Burgess' ruling from continuing to take effect. The Alaska Dispatch News reports: 

BurgessAn appeal in the case, which could potentially overturn the decision, will also be filed with the 9th Circuit. The state filed its notice to appeal the decision Monday.

The request, filed Tuesday evening, asks that the 9th Circuit allow a stay, which would halt same-sex marriages, because it is possible the court will rehear cases surrounding similar bans in Nevada and Idaho, or that another circuit court could rule in upholding a ban and cause a split in the courts. 

The state also petitioned for "en banc" review, where an 11-judge panel in the 9th Circuit could possibly hear the case. That review is generally difficult to get, according to attorneys in the case, since a majority of 9th Circuit judges -- there are 29 -- must vote to even hear the case.


First Gay Couples Marry In Alaska: VIDEO

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After a federal judge's ruling overturned Alaska's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage (passed in 1998), same-sex Alaskan couples  yesterday began seeking marriage licenses. Some had already been married out of state and wanted recognition in their home state as well. Most couples were forced to adhere to a 3 day waiting period imposed on couples in Alaska who wish to seek marriage licenses. However, at least two same-sex couples in Alaska were able to avoid the waiting period and got married on the spot. Alaska Dispatch News reports:

It appears that at least two same-sex couples have been married in Barrow, according to Kristine Hilderbrand, who said state Magistrate Mary Treiber waived the three-day waiting period required after issuing of marriage licenses. Hilderbrand said she married Sarah Ellis at about 4 p.m. Monday. The two are likely the first same-sex couples to be married in Alaska. Department of Heath and Social Services spokesman Jason Grenn said the state was still reviewing the legality of the marriages.

Meanwhile, the state continues its plans for defending the ban:

The state of Alaska filed an emergency motion for a stay on a Sunday ruling overturning Alaska's ban on same-sex marriage, pending final appeal in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Monday afternoon. The state argues that since the 9th Circuit could potentially hear the case "en banc" -- before a larger panel of judges than the three who decided the Nevada and Idaho cases last week -- and that there is a "reasonable likelihood" that a circuit split will develop in the near future, the court should issue the stay in order to "avoid chaos" in the administration of Alaska's marriage laws. Until a judge rules on the motion, marriages in Alaska will be allowed to proceed.

Watch a news report on the sweeping changes hitting Alaska and the debate still raging on, AFTER THE JUMP...

[Photo via Alaska Dispatch News]

Continue reading "First Gay Couples Marry In Alaska: VIDEO" »


Marriage Equality Arrives in Alaska: PHOTOS

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As expected, Alaska began accepting applications for same-sex marriage licenses earlier this morning, following yesterday's federal court ruling overturning the state's ban on gay marriage.

Gay marriage is now legal in 30 states, according to Freedom to Marry. 

Marriage map

More photos of gay couples tying the knot in Alaska, AFTER THE JUMP...

Meanwhile, Alaska Governor Sean Parnell has pledged to continue wasting taxpayer money in his fruitless effort defending the state's unconstitutional gay marriage ban. 

[photos via Facebook]

Continue reading "Marriage Equality Arrives in Alaska: PHOTOS" »


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