February 19, 2013

Bigotry Is Alive And Well In Alaska’s State Legislature

Alaska State Capitol Building Juneau Alaska

Despite An Apology - It’s Business As Usual In Juneau

While I was checking out my news feed yesterday morning via Google news, I saw a news item from Think Progress with the headline “Alaska Republicans Laugh At Reporter For Asking About Civil Unions For Gay Couples.” Just reading the phrase “Alaska Republicans laugh at gay couples” made my blood boil, because the laughter inferred that the Alaska Republicans were denigrating LGBT relationships, and the LGBT community, and that’s completely unacceptable to me.

Igor Volsky of Think Progress wrote about the Alaska state House of Representatives Republican caucus press conference, and the laughter that ensued after reporter Mark Miller asked the GOP House majority leader whether they were considering any legislation to legally recognize LGBT relationships.
Mark Miller: I’m looking at a recent Public Policy Polling of Alaska that found that only 30 percent of respondents believe there should be no legal recognition of gay couples’ relationships in Alaska. I was just curious, would the caucus support the idea of having domestic partnerships or civil unions open to same-sex couples.
LOUD Yucks Laughter Knee Slapping Ensues
Rep. Lance Pruitt: We didn’t have a discussion here about what happens inside your home. We’re talking about whether or not you can make money, whether or not there is a great economy, and whether or not you’re going to have the opportunity to live in Alaska with a great future. Now, your discussion on that, we didn’t talk about that.
After watching the video clip I was really pissed off, so I wrote an email to the Republican Majority Leader Rep. Lance Pruitt.

This is the text of my email, and I violated my own rule by not waiting a little while before clicking “send.”

I wish I could rewrite it, but I sent it and what can you do. I know it got through to the Alaska politician.
Dear Rep. Pruitt: 
I just saw your Republican caucus laugh and howl in a youtube video, in response to a reporter asking a question about marriage equality. I’d like to know what was so funny about the question? Do you have any idea how foolish you and your colleagues appear to be? 
You haven’t become very adept at skillfully dodging a direct answer to a question, and your reply that marriage equality isn’t a “guiding principal” for Republicans is short-sighted and naive. 
The GOP has taken a beating at the polls due to stupid remarks in the past, and I suspect that this too might come back to haunt you. 
Marriage equality is NOT a joke. Discrimination is NOT a laughing matter.
You say that you want to build a strong economy. Only when all Alaskans have equal opportunity that includes life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - will you be able to strengthen your state’s economy. Don’t dismiss the LGBT community. 
LGBT residents of Alaska are not a joke, and are worthy of respect. You and your caucus should apologize. You should also consider extending employment protections against discrimination, and marriage equality, to the LGBT citizens of Alaska. The economic benefits are huge, and consistent with conservative principles. 
As Barry Goldwater said “The big thing is to make this country, along with every other country in the world with a few exceptions, quit discriminating against people just because they’re gay. You don’t have to agree with it, but they have a constitutional right to be gay.” 
He also said “Everyone knows that gays have served honorably in the military since at least the time of Julius Caesar. It’s time America realized that there is no gay exemption in the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence.” 
Please apologize publicly for your insensitive caucus, and do the right thing Rep. Pruitt. 
Thank you. 
Roy Steele

My email was sent at 10:17am Pacific Standard Time (9:17am Alaska Time).

Email from Roy Steele to Rep. Pruitt asking for an apology for bigotry

The reporter who asked the question, Mark Miller of Juneau Empire wrote a story that was posted online at 12:10am this morning entitled “House majority leadership apologizes for laughing.”

Mark writes:
Two Alaska legislators Monday released a joint statement to apologize for and explain the reaction of many of their caucus’ members to a an unexpected question Friday about gay rights issues. 
Several members of the House majority caucus, including Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, laughed Friday when asked a question by the Juneau Empire’s reporter about whether the caucus would support domestic partnerships or civil unions for same-sex couples.
That response — more than the answer from House Majority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, that the caucus had not discussed the issue and does not consider it part of their “guiding principles” this year — caught the attention of local and national blogs — many of which showed a video clip of the question and response while suggesting the laughter demonstrated disrespect to the gay community or supporters of same-sex unions.
You’re damn straight that they got the attention of many blogs, including this one. Rep. Pruitt’s statement reads in part.
“I would like to make two things clear: laughter was not an appropriate response under any circumstances, and we regret and apologize for the reaction to that question,” said Pruitt in the statement. “It was a serious question; it is a serious issue — and it is not something the Caucus has taken a position on.”
Marriage equality is not something the Caucus has taken a position on? I would say the laughter was taking a position. While I appreciate that Rep. Pruitt heeded my request and issued an apology, the position of his Caucus is clear. Bigotry is alive and well in the Alaska state legislature.

This is another example of Republicans behaving badly, and it’s an epidemic that the party needs to address.

Straight talk indeed.


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