AP falsely suggests Palin supports benefits for same-sex partners of state employees

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

The Associated Press reported that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin "opposes gay marriage -- constitutionally banned in Alaska before her time -- but exercised a veto that essentially granted benefits to gay state employees and their partners." However, the AP did not note that Palin stated that she vetoed the bill because the Alaska attorney general had advised her that it was unconstitutional, not because she believed same-sex partners of public employees should receive benefits.

In an August 29 article, the Associated Press reported that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin "opposes gay marriage -- constitutionally banned in Alaska before her time -- but exercised a veto that essentially granted benefits to gay state employees and their partners." However, the AP did not note, as the AP had previously reported, that the bill she vetoed in December 2006 was a response to a 2005 Alaska Supreme Court ruling that the state's policy of denying spousal benefits to same-sex partners of public employees violated the Alaska Constitution. The bill would have prohibited state officials from granting such benefits despite a 2006 state Supreme Court order requiring them to issue regulations granting benefits pursuant to the 2005 decision by January 1, 2007. Further, the AP did not note that Palin stated that she vetoed the bill because the Alaska attorney general had advised her that it was unconstitutional, not because she believed same-sex partners of public employees should receive benefits. Indeed, Palin's office stated in its veto message: "The Governor's veto does not signal any change or modification to her disagreement with the action and order by the Alaska Supreme Court." Further, the AP did not note that as a candidate for governor, Palin also reportedly supported a ballot question banning benefits for same-sex couples.

In a November 2006 article that provided a timeline of the court's ruling and its implementation, the AP noted that in 1998, Alaska voters passed "a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages." The AP wrote that after lawsuits were filed on behalf of same-sex couples arguing that "it's unconstitutional to require a couple to be married in order to get government employment benefits," the Alaska "Supreme Court unanimously rule[d] [in October 2005] it's unconstitutional to deny benefits to the same-sex partners of public employees." The AP wrote of the ramifications: "Anchorage officials begin steps to offer benefits; state says it needs more time. Supreme Court eventually gives until Jan. 1, 2007, for state to comply with the ruling."

In November 2006, the Alaska House and Senate passed HB4001, an "Act prohibiting the commissioner of administration from adopting, allowing become law, or implementing regulations that grant or extend employment-related benefits to same-sex partners of state employees and members of the state retirement systems unless expressly authorized by statute."

Palin vetoed the bill and in a December 28, 2006, release explained: "The Department of Law advised me that this bill, HB4001, is unconstitutional given the recent Court order of December 19th, mandating same-sex benefits. With that in mind, signing this bill would be in direct violation of my oath of office. ... In the Department of Law opinion passed along to the Governor, Attorney General Talis Colberg writes, 'the bill ... effectively eliminated the regulatory process as a way to comply with the Court's order to provide same-sex domestic partner benefits for state employees and members of state retirement systems.' " From the release:

"The Department of Law advised me that this bill, HB4001, is unconstitutional given the recent Court order of December 19th, mandating same-sex benefits," said Governor Sarah Palin. "With that in mind, signing this bill would be in direct violation of my oath of office."

HB4001 passed during the special session of the Legislature in the final month of the Murkowski administration. The bill prohibited the commissioner of the department of administration from adopting same-sex regulations, allowing them to become law, or implementing them. In the Department of Law opinion passed along to the Governor, Attorney General Talis Colberg writes, "the bill ... effectively eliminated the regulatory process as a way to comply with the Court's order to provide same-sex domestic partner benefits for state employees and members of state retirement systems." Colberg further states that the December 19, 2006 order is "legally sufficient to authorize the commission of administration to expand state employee health benefits or change the retirement systems to provide benefits for same-sex domestic partners."

The Governor's veto does not signal any change or modification to her disagreement with the action and order by the Alaska Supreme Court. It is the Governor's intention to work with the legislature and to give the people of Alaska an opportunity to express their wishes and intentions whether these benefits should continue.

The Court-ordered regulations are already in effect in accordance with the December 19th order.

In a December 20, 2006, release about the Alaska Supreme Court's December 19 order. Palin's office stated:

"The Supreme Court has ordered adoption of the regulations by the State of Alaska to begin providing benefits January 1," said Governor Palin. "We have no more judicial options. We may disagree with the rationale behind the ruling, but our responsibility is to proceed forward with the law and follow the Constitution."

[...]

"I disagree with the recent court decision because I feel as though Alaskans spoke on this issue with its overwhelming support for a Constitutional Amendment in 1998 which defined marriage as between a man and woman. But the Supreme Court has spoken and the state will abide."

A January 1, 2007, Juneau Empire article reported that Palin vetoed the bill despite "her opposition to equal benefits for gay and lesbian government employees."

As a candidate for governor, Palin reportedly supported efforts to prohibit state benefits for same-sex couples. Noting that "the Alaska Supreme Court ruled the state couldn't deny spousal benefits to the same-sex partners of public employees," the Anchorage Daily News reported on August 6, 2006, that Palin believes "[e]lected officials can't defy the court when it comes to how rights are applied, she said, but she would support a ballot question that would deny benefits to homosexual couples. 'I believe that honoring the family structure is that important,' Palin said. She said she doesn't know if people choose to be gay." The Daily News further reported on October 31, 2006, that "Palin said that when voters approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman eight years ago, many believed they were also implying that a gay partner shouldn't get state benefits. 'I wouldn't oppose at all the voters going back to the ballot box to clarify that,' she said during a KTUU Channel 2 debate Sunday."

From the August 29 Associated Press article:

Palin had been in the running-mate field but as a distinct long shot.

She brings a strong anti-abortion stance to the ticket and opposes gay marriage -- constitutionally banned in Alaska before her time -- but exercised a veto that essentially granted benefits to gay state employees and their partners.

"She knows where she comes from, and she knows who she works for," [Sen. John] McCain said in introducing her to an Ohio rally. "She stands up for what's right, and she doesn't let anyone tell her to sit down." He said: "She's exactly who I need."

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, LGBT, Elections
Network/Outlet
Associated Press
Person
Sarah Palin
Stories/Interests
2008 Elections
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