WASHINGTON - When Alaska's state legislators should have been hard at work on issues important to Alaskan families, they chose to squander $1.2 million of taxpayer money on a statewide, single-issue "advisory vote" directing the state Legislature to consider a discriminatory amendment banning same-sex partner benefits for state and local public employees. The non-binding vote, held Tuesday, garnered a low 14 percent turnout and passed by a narrow margin of 53 percent to 47 percent.
"When you consider the $1.2 million in state funds that were diverted from tackling important issues like promoting safer schools and lowering state healthcare costs to call this vote, you realize just how costly this political exercise really was," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "Our work with our coalition partners in the state leaves no doubt that Alaska's families have little interest in taking away benefits from hard-working Alaskans but want their elected officials to work hard on issues that affect their everyday lives."
"This unnecessary and costly election shows how some members of the state Legislature are out-of-touch with the needs of Alaska families," said Jesse Cross-Call, campaign manager for Alaskans Together. "Only after every child has healthcare, every school room has the needed supplies and the rest of our state's citizens are taken care of should the Legislature be engaging in this kind of costly political exercise. More important than the results of the election is the fact that 86 percent of voters in our state decided not to partake in such a divisive and discriminatory political exercise."
State legislators opposed to equal rights pressed for the statewide advisory vote to increase pressure on lawmakers to place a constitutional amendment stripping public workers of same-sex partner employment benefits before voters on the November 2008 ballot. Alaska state law requires a two-thirds majority in each legislative chamber to amend the state constitution.
In October 2005, the Alaska Supreme Court unanimously confirmed that all public employees are promised equal pay and employment benefits under Alaska's constitution. The court required the state to offer family health insurance to all public employees. As of Jan. 1, 2007, public employees started receiving domestic partner benefits.
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
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