State of Alaska employees who are in same sex relationships will now be able to take leave due to a serious health condition of a same-sex partner. Like employees in heterosexual relationships, gay partners of state employees will now be defined as “immediate family,” the state personnel board decided on Thursday.
The rule goes into effect Oct.
Gay marriage is constitutionally banned in Alaska. However, in 2005, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that because of the prohibition, it was unconstitutional to deny gay couples benefits that the state provides to heterosexual couples.
The state has mostly complied with the order. But it took the ACLU of Alaska to write a letter on behalf of a corrections officer to bring this to the court-ordered standard.
No matter that the state was complying with a Supreme Court decision, this issue still wrought controversy.
Alaska state Rep. Lora Reinbold, a Republican from Eagle River and chair of the Administrative Review Committee, wrote a letter to the board, urging it to delay voting on the issue. She said that the decision would be giving “special privileges to individuals who have in fact made a Life-Style Choice.” It’s a choice, she asserts, that has “no legal standing;” however, she provides no supporting documentation. She appears either unaware of the Supreme Court decision or chooses to disregard it.
She also wrote that calling gay couples “family” is “not in keeping with my interpretation of statue or the legislative intent.”
The State of Alaska Personnel Board is a three member board appointed by the governor and approved by the Legislature, which does not oversee the board.
Others wrote in support of the decision. A local medical doctor wrote that the Alaska Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatricians all have stated that equal rights for same sex partners and their families “create a more healthy family environment.”
Another wrote that her partner of 13 years has breast cancer, and that this proposal is “not giving any special rights but an equal right to all employees.”
In 2006, Gov. Sarah Palin vetoed a bill that would have prohibited the state from adopting the court-ordered, same-sex regulations. The law was unconstitutional, she said.
Palin is against same sex marriage. However, she said that “signing his bill would be in direct violation of my oath of office.”
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