Juneau Pride Chorus Sings "Songs for the Soul"

by E. Ross

"Songs for the Soul," the 10th Anniversary Juneau Pride Chorus Spring Concert, presents an evening of music and food at the new Juneau Arts and Culture Center on May 31, at 7:30 p.m.

The concert features Chorus and audience favorites from the past 10 years, plus new songs and Cris Williamson's classic "Song of the Soul." Chorus member Maureen Johnson is the featured soloist, singing "I Am Who I Am" and "Gold." Guest artist Kevin Wood, brother of Music Director Leslie Wood, will perform a new song.

"For the first time, we have a hilarious choreographed song," said Chorus member Juanita Reese about their version of Ann Reed's "Power Tools – Are a Girl's Best Friend."

During intermission, Chorus members are providing snacks and accepting donations to Equality for All to uphold same-sex marriage in California.

The Juneau Pride Chorus is a project of PFLAG Juneau.

"We just donated several hundred dollars to the second PFLAG scholarship to graduating seniors this year," said Reese, who takes calls for PFLAG one week a month. "Juneau PFLAG sponsors one scholarship per year, but this year there were two deserving kids, so we helped out."

Tickets are available at the door or from Chorus members: $12 for students K-12 and those 65+, $15 for adults, and $30 for a family of any size.

This Week in GLBT Alaska

From Alaska GLBT News (subscribe):
  • 5/30 Meet ACLU of Alaska Director Jeffrey Mittman at the Breakwater in Juneau, Friday morning, 7 a.m. RSVP
  • 5/30-5/31 Bac'untry Bruthers play in Homer, 5/31 at Duggan's Pub (9 p.m.), 5/31 at Kharakters Bar (10 p.m.)
  • 5/31 TLFMC Last Saturday Brunch, at BirchTree Dining in Anchorage, 10:30 a.m. Road Captain
  • 5/31 "Songs for the Soul" 10th annual Juneau Pride Chorus spring concert, Juneau Arts and Culture Center, 7:30 p.m. Tickets
  • 5/31 The Court of Fairbanks presents the Mardi Gras Show, Carlson Center, 8:30 p.m. $15
  • 6/1 More Light Sunday, a June Pride service at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Anchorage, 9:30 a.m. continental breakfast, 10 a.m. service.
  • 6/4  Irina Rivkin with Inna, at Tap Root Café in Anchorage, 8 p.m. $5-10 sliding scale donation suggested, no one turned away for lack of funds. 
  • Anchorage PrideFest 2008 seeks high energy entertainers for the all-ages, family-friendly Pride on the Parkstrip Festival. Applications online.
  • ACLU of Alaska is looking for Volunteers. Contact Matt Serres, Volunteer Coordinator mserres@akclu.org

OutMusic Award Winner Irina Rivkin Tours Alaska with Personal and Political Songs

by E. Ross

Irina Rivkin is bringing her "poetic vocal worldfolk live-looped harmonies and beats" back to Alaska, with performances in Anchorage on June 4 at Tap Root Cafe and June 14 at the Juneteenth Festival, and in Fairbanks on June 12 at College Coffeehouse. Her twin sister Inna will open for her and harmonize.

Irina is returning to Alaska to visit her family and to tour. Last year, she performed at the Seldovia Summer Solstice Music Festival and an Out North Showcase in Anchorage.
Singer-songwriter Irina Rivkin has performed for 25 years, from her childhood singing Russian folk and American Jazz in a family band, to performing her own songs for the last 12 years. She expresses insightful, gutsy, vocal world-folk originals, journeying into the personal and political, with occasional travels into Russian and Spanish language lyrics. Irina layers her poetic lyrics with rich textured harmonies, swirling with vocal percussive beats, all created live on-the-spot using her loop station instrument.
Her full-length CD "upwelling" was released on Rose Street Records in 2004. The song "See Through Bush," about George W., was chosen for the Acoustic Rainbow v.20 radio sampler. 

"Ya Eyo Lublu", Irina's "Russian-émigré-lesbian-coming-out-love-song" about bringing the woman she loves home to meet her mother, received an OutMusic Award for Outsong of the Year and was included on the "Safe Haven" compilation, raising funds for Portland LGBTQ youth services.

Irina's father was fired and blacklisted by the KGB for "the crime of listening to poetry" and the family came to America seeking freedom. But in 2000, Bush "steals an election" and turns the country into "his own police state." The song "Taking Our Freedom" compares her family's experiences with the Russian KGB to the current tactics of the FBI.

Watch a live-looped version of "Taking Our Freedom" on Irina's MySpace page, or listen to "upwelling" on SonicBids.

Irina also founded the Rose Street House of Music, a house concert & touring musical community featuring women singer-songwriters, with a focus on poetic music of substance & depth. 

"She is political, jazzy, and rhythmic...hot, harmony-rich vocals... rhythm & sound would pass as a Russian Sweet Honey in the Rock." Angela Page, Sing Out! Summer 2004 

Irina's 2008 Alaska Tour:
  • Anchorage 6/4 (Wed) at Tap Root Café, 8 p.m. (1330 E Huffman), $5-10 sliding scale donation suggested, no one turned away for lack of funds. 
  • Fairbanks 6/12 (Thurs) College Coffeehouse, 8 p.m. (3677 College Road Unit 4), $5-10 sliding scale donation suggested, no one turned away for lack of funds. 
  • Anchorage 6/14 (Sat) at the Juneteenth Festival, 7 p.m. on the Delaney Park Strip, free.
She is also available for a house concert or live-looping workshop in Anchorage or Palmer on June 15, and in the Fairbanks area June 6-8.

Juneau "Femme Fatale" Raises $3000 For Four A's

by E. Ross

The annual Femme Fatale Drag Show was a success, raising nearly $3000 for the Alaskan AIDS Assistance Association (Four A's), despite the lack of electricity in Juneau and an early end to the legislative session. 

"The surprise of the show this year," said Mikey LaChoy, Emperor 25 of the Imperial Court of All Alaska (ICOAA) and coordinator of Femme Fatale, "was when we pulled four un-witting contestants from the audience and let everyone vote on which would get a drag make-over and perform in the show. This was so popular that we decided to make it part of the show from now on."

Femme Fatale has been a tradition in Juneau for almost twenty years. 

"Emperors, Empresses and other drag performers from Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau put on a two night show, grown from the original one night only," said LaChoy, who has been involved off and on for fifteen years. "The performers and staff pay their own airfare, hotel, and expenses, so all the money raised goes to AIDS prevention, education, and client services." 

This year's Femme Fatale performers were Miss MeMe, a past Empress of Seattle now living in Anchorage, Past Empresses Joani and Vicki, the current empress Mary Bess, and the always fun Empress Rosie Rotten. Local performers also supported the show, including Juneau personality Mikea.

Originally, the show raised money for Shante of Juneau. Then Four A's expanded to serve most of Alaska, including Juneau, and now the money raised by Femme Fatale is donated to them.

The Four A's was established in 1985 and provides one-on-one case management, housing assistance and other supportive services to people living with HIV/AIDS, and also provides HIV prevention and education. The main Four A's office in Anchorage coordinates services around the state.

Four A's in Juneau is a small two person office. The case manager, Robbi Woltring, handles the client issues such as doctor's visits, medications, housing, food and counseling. Lee Wagner is in charge of education and outreach.

"I hand out condoms on the streets downtown and in the bars, as well as doing outreach at the Glory Hole (Homeless Shelter/ Soup Kitchen) and the Polaris House (Mental Health Facility)," said Lee, an AmeriCorps volunteer known as the "condom lady" of Juneau. "I teach HIV 101 classes for Lemon Creek Correctional Center, Gastineau Human Services, Rainforest Recovery and others."

Juneau Four A's also provides free HIV testing in the office and the community. They use the Oraquick rapid test, which is an oral test that requires no blood, and the results are given in twenty minutes.

As for Femme Fatale, LaChoy is already making plans for next year. "We want to have the show earlier, during the legislative session, so we can get more attendance," he said. "Yes, some of those legislators DO attend!"

"Hopefully, they will have fixed the energy crisis down there - although the girls looked even prettier with the dim lighting."

OUT is IN - Alaska: Anchorage PrideFest 2008

by E. Ross

The roar of the motorcycles, the dance music and cheering crowd, a river of rainbows flowing through downtown Anchorage - yes, it's almost time for Pride!

"OUT is IN - Alaska" is the theme of Anchorage PrideFest 2008. The Celebrating Diversity Parade will be held on Saturday, June 28 at 11 a.m., followed by the Festival on the Delaney Park Strip at noon.

PrideFest t-shirts are available at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Anchorage (GLCCA) for $20. They will also be sold at the Identity Pride Booth at the Anchorage Market (formerly the Saturday Market) the weekend before the parade.

Performers, sponsors, vendors and parade groups can download applications from the PrideFest site.

Snowy Day of Silence in Alaska

by E. Ross

Students in Juneau, Fairbanks and Anchorage joined students all over the country on National Day of Silence to protest the name-calling and bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students.

A record number of students and schools participated in National Day of Silence, and some school districts held official anti-bullying events. DoS was held this year in honor of Lawrence King, a California student who was shot and killed in class for being gay. 

Around the country, several anti-gay groups demonstrated against Day of Silence, including a well-publicized event at Mount Si High School near Seattle. The groups advised parents to keep their teenagers home from school.

In Alaska, there were no reported protests on Day of Silence. A few weeks before DoS, a city council meeting in Fairbanks became tense because of false claims made by a local anti-gay group. In response, newspaper and TV reports in Anchorage and Fairbanks quoted school district personnel defending the students' right to participate in events like Day of Silence.

Next year's Day of Silence will be held on Friday, April 17, 2009. No Name-Calling Week, an anti-bullying program for grades 5-8, will be held on Jan. 26-30, 2009.

Here are the reports about the Day of Silence activities that occurred in Alaska this year.

Juneau
"We had a great day at the JDHS Day of Silence," said Casady Herding, Juneau-Douglas High School's GSA Advisor.

"About 210 students signed up to take the vow of silence from 8:00 a.m. until our school day ends at 1:10 p.m. Then students broke the silence together in the commons with a collective shout, and there was a follow-up activity with two guest speakers."

"It was a mellow day, since we didn't do a big Night of Noise or rally as we have in the past. No protests like they had in Seattle, no reported harassment. I replied to two parents who had questions about the day's activities, but that was it. I'm hoping this "business as usual" attitude reflects an awareness of others and a safer school climate than we've had in the past."

"In past years, students organized rallies. One year a group of students, staff and parents marched to the capitol and listened to speakers such as Kim Elton and JDHS students. Last year we held a Night of Noise at our local Silverbow Cafe, with performances by the Pride Chorus and student musicians, singers and speakers in an open-mic forum. That was fun!"

Anchorage
Students in the Anchorage area high schools participated in Day of Silence, and celebrated at Pride Prom that night in a late April snow storm.

"I heard from one of the faculty sponsors at Pride Prom that DoS had about 150 participants, a record. Pride Prom had around (just a guess) 30 attendees, certainly reduced because of the snow. I think it went well, nevertheless," said Steph, a Pride Prom chaperone.

"When I left [Pride Prom] about 9:40 p.m., everyone was dancing and having a great time," said Tim Pearson, another chaperone.

Fairbanks
Students from West Valley, Lathrop and North Pole High Schools participated.

"After the initial controversy, things got pretty quiet," said Jeff Walters, West Valley GSA co-advisor. "It helped that the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner wrote an editorial supporting the students' right to participate in the Day of Silence. One of our GSA students wrote a Letter to the Editor that appeared the same day as the editorial. After that, we didn't hear anything negative from the public. Our principal was very supportive. She kept telling the media that West Valley has participated in the Day of Silence for the last five years and nothing would change this year."

A note from Kodiak
"We have a sleeping GSA in Kodiak," said Cid, a school staff member. "It was active, but now it's dormant. They did Day of Silence for 3 years, but that stopped too. The person at the HS who started it left... my hope is to get it going again."

Do you know students who participated in DoS at other Alaskan schools? Homer, Palmer? Where are the "straight but not narrow" students who can help the LGBT youth with this event next year?

Where to Find GLBT Alaska - Annual Events, Revised Again

The main Annual Events for GLBT Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks, in seasonal order:
  • Arctic Heat (Jan.) - TLFMC comes out of hibernation to choose the next Bear and Leather titleholders.
  • Celebration of Change (April) - RAW's 'break-up' performance celebrates women, art, music and springtime. UPDATE: changed to JUNE for 2009.
  • Femme Fatale (end of April) - ICOAA's Juneau benefit for 4 A's closes the legislative session.
  • Day of Silence (April 25) & Pride Prom (April in Anchorage, Feb. in Fairbanks) - Gay/Straight Student Alliances (GSA's) participate in National Day of Silence, and Pride Prom graduates teens in style.
  • Pride Picnic (May, Memorial Day) - The Picnic and BBQ celebrate unity and the beginning of summer.
  • Juneau Pride Chorus spring concert (May) - An evening of music, food and dance. UPDATE: The Pride Chorus concert was in February this year.
  • PrideFest (June) - The summer solstice parade and festival displays Gay Pride in downtown Anchorage & Fairbanks.
  • Coronation (August) - ICOAA's late summer extravaganza invests the new Imperial Court.
  • Pride Conference (October) - Identity's back-to-school conference is inspired by National Coming Out Day.
  • World AIDS Day (Dec. 1) - Four A's and IAA recognize World AIDS Day with red ribbons and candlelight vigils.
Are there other annual events? Please help me complete the list.

This Week in GLBT Alaska

From Alaska GLBT News (subscribe):

5/23 Bac'untry Bruthers play the Trapper Creek Bluegrass Festival, 8 p.m.
5/25 Rev. Johnathan's last Sunday at MCC Anchorage, 2 p.m. service, 3 p.m. potluck
5/26 Memorial Day Picnic, noon-5 p.m. Kincaid Park, Anchorage
5/28 Four A's Million Mile Raffle Drawing
Elton John, Wed. 5/28 & Friday 5/30 in Anchorage, Thurs. 5/29 in Fairbanks
Out in Alaska's ANWR Backpacking Adventure 6/14-6/20 has openings
Anchorage PrideFest Needs Volunteers for the Parade and Festival on 6/28

"Get Busy. Get Equal" with Tiffany McClain, ACLU of Alaska's New LGBT Coordinator

by E. Ross

Tiffany McClain is the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Public Policy Coordinator of the ACLU of Alaska. She is the first permanent full-time staff member dedicated solely to the advancement and protection of LGBT rights in the state of Alaska. 

"I feel privileged to have been offered an opportunity to work on such an important project—protecting the equality and civil rights of LGBT people—in a state for which I have so much respect and affection." McClain, who earned an MA from the University of Michigan on the politics of gender and race in U.S. history, came to Alaska for a working vacation last summer.

"Get Busy. Get Equal" is the National ACLU project to provide organizing tools for LGBT equality on relationships, discrimination, parenting, schools, and transgender issues. 

"It's a great guidepost for how to go about organizing local campaigns, and I can't wait to put some of the suggestions to use here in Alaska," said McClain. "We should have educational and promotional materials available to the public in time for Anchorage PrideFest."

Jeffrey Mittman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Alaska said about Tiffany's appointment, "In fulfilling our mandate to protect the constitutional rights of all Alaskans, the ACLU is particularly pleased to make this long term commitment to ending discrimination in our state, including ensuring legal protection for LGBT Alaskans. Tiffany has both the intellect and passion to step into this needed role." 

Mittman was the Deputy National Field Director of the ACLU prior to taking the Alaska position, and he is no stranger to LGBT issues. Before joining the ACLU, he was the Special Projects Manager for Equality California, the state's largest LGBT advocacy organization, managing the marriage equality and non-discrimination campaigns in the Southern California region.

The ACLU of Alaska brought two LGBT cases to victory in the last decade. In 1999, they challenged the denial of employment benefits for the partners of gay and lesbian employees of the State of Alaska and the Municipality of Anchorage. In October 2005, the Alaska Supreme Court agreed and ordered the implementation of benefits plans that provide equal benefits. 

In the summer of 2001, the ACLU of Alaska filed suit when Anchorage Mayor George Wuerch ordered the removal of a staff-approved Gay Pride Month exhibit at Loussac Library called "Celebrate Diversity Under the Midnight Sun." The U.S. District Court agreed with the ACLU and issued an order allowing the sponsors of the exhibit to reinstall it. 

Tiffany McClain took the time to answer a few questions about herself and the new LGBT Coordinator position:

What are the main issues and top priorities that you will begin working on as LGBT Public Policy Coordinator?
As the ACLU of Alaska's LGBT Public Policy Coordinator, these are my primary responsibilities:
1) to ensure that the State of Alaska and its municipalities are following through with the extension of domestic partnership benefits to their employees on a fair and equal basis by reducing the incidence of non-compliance,
2) to defend against any proposed challenges to the constitutional rights of LGBT individuals, and 
3) to help build an organizing strategy and public education/outreach campaign to advance the rights of the LGBT community in Alaska. 
The first goal will partially be achieved by surveying employers and obtaining copies of their revised benefits policies, but we're also going to need the help of LGBT employees who will be able to help us find out what's actually happening on the ground level, regardless of what policy the booklets state. So if you work for a state or municipal agency or a public school, please feel free to contact me and share your experiences and opinions. (tmcclain@akclu.org, 258-0044).

 

How do you envision your relationship with Alaska's LGBT community?
Actually, cultivating a relationship with the LGBT community is a huge priority for me—I don't think I can be successful without it. I believe that finding out the community's concerns is crucial to building a long-term organizing strategy. We want to make sure that we're addressing the local community's needs while we work to advance the larger goals of the ACLU's national LGBT & AIDS Project. It's not always helpful to go forward with an agenda without getting the input of other community members and leaders—especially when you're the new person in town. 

So for the first couple of months, I plan to meet with the point people of all the organizations and networks in the state to get a sense of who they are, what are their current concerns and projects, and to share with and get feedback from them regarding the ACLU's plans. 

One of the first things we plan to do is distribute a community interest survey (which we'll be encouraging people to complete at Anchorage PrideFest, so stop by our booth) but we're also working on making it available to those of you who live in other parts of the state.

 

What drew you to this position?
I was drawn to this position because it was an opportunity to work on a project that I'm passionate about in a state I'm passionate about. 

I did seasonal work in Alaska last summer and was considering the possibility of moving here long-term. I've spent a lot of time studying civil rights history and politics and I wanted to find work that was somehow related to what I'd learned as an undergraduate and graduate student. It was quite a surprise to find out that the ACLU of Alaska was looking for someone to work on LGBT issues and I knew I couldn't pass up the opportunity. 

Even though I'm no longer officially a student, I will always love learning. What is great about this job is that I get to actively contribute to the LGBT movement for equality while continuing to learn about law and activism.

Online Resources for Organizing
ACLU of ALASKA: http://www.akclu.org/
National ACLU's "Get Busy. Get Equal" project: http://gbge.aclu.org/
National GLSEN (The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network): http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/home/index.html

Big Wild Gay?

by E. Ross

Anchorage, Alaska has been named by the Advocate Magazine as one of the "top five emerging cities for gays and lesbians."

Yes, Anchorage.

Gary Gates, a researcher from UCLA, compared Census data from the years 2000 and 2006. He wanted to see which of the country's 100 largest cities had the biggest growth in the proportion of same-sex couples to all couples. Anchorage jumped from number 74 to 54, with 7.54 same-sex couples per one thousand households, earning a place among the top five emerging cities. 

All five of the cities are located in conservative parts of the country. The other four are Plano, Texas; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Jacksonville, Florida. 

The study suggests that more gay and lesbian couples are moving out of the progressive but expensive mega-cities and into less popular cities that have better job and housing markets. The more affordable cities tend to be in conservative areas.

According to the Advocate, gays and lesbians move to Anchorage for the good balance between cultural diversity and outdoor activities. It's big enough to have gay bars and a community center, small enough to have access to nature. It also has jobs, and a growing economy, which the Advocate didn't mention.

The other surprise is this description of Anchorage: "Culturally the city has a hip Pacific Northwest feel similar to Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Canada."

Anchorage is "hip?"

More Comments on the California Marriage Ruling

After I posted an analysis and a list of Alaskan statements and comments celebrating last week's marriage equality ruling by the California Supreme Court, I received two more responses that I want to highlight. 

Jay and Gene Dugan-Brause, founders of Out North Theater in Anchorage, wrote from London to add their comments: "It's a very good decision and one that will be helpful in future litigation." Read their full comment below the original post. 

Also, the chair of the Anchorage Chapter of PFLAG was out of state on Friday, so Board Member Jackie Buckley sent the following comment.

 

Jackie Buckley, PFLAG Anchorage Board Member:
Anchorage PFLAG chapter is thrilled with the 4-3 decision by the California Supreme Court in support of full marriage equality for GLBT Californians. We hope that California will lead the way for more states to loosen their grip on the status quo and open doors for GLBT families, especially along the west coast.  

 

Alaska's Constitution held great promise for GLBT citizens due to Article One's promise of non-discrimination on the basis of sex. Prior to the addition of Article Twenty-Five, it seemed likely that Alaska might have been the first or second state in the union to have marriage equality across the genders. Unfortunately, for the time being, our own constitution fails us, and remains, as our Alaska Supreme Court stated in their October 28th domestic partner benefits opinion in 2005, out of harmony with itself. At this point, Alaskans do not even have the benefit of civil unions, and there are no employment or public accommodation protections; no laws to support or protect our families. Only municipal and state employees benefitted from the domestic partner ruling. No widespread change moved across the Great Land as a result.  

After Massachusetts allowed marriage equity, its neighbors began to see that the earth did not shatter and that great calamities did not befall the region. Over time, the surrounding states have embraced domestic partnership or civil unions, and have begun the legal processes that may lead to full marriage equality in New England and along the eastern seaboard. The wheels are turning in neighboring states, especially in New York. Perhaps this process is like an inoculation. With activism, desensitization, and funding, perhaps the west coast will be the next region to be infected with change. Moving up the coast, maybe Alaska will be in the path of a tsunami of change.  

We Won! Alaskans Celebrate California Marriage Equality

by E. Ross

The California Supreme Court decided on Thursday that it's unconstitutional to ban same-sex couples from civil marriage. We won!

Sixty years ago, the California court struck down the state ban on interracial marriage, and twenty years later the US Supreme Court threw out the federal ban. Thursday's ruling is another big step forward for marriage equality, for California and for America.

Last night, they had one heck of a party in California. On June 15, if all goes well, gay and lesbian couples will be able to get legally married. Just in time for Gay Pride Week.

This ruling could have consequences that reach far beyond marriage in one state:
  • The court found that discrimination against gays and lesbians is similar to discrimination based on race and gender. This designation can be used to challenge all kinds of anti-gay discrimination.
  • The marriage ban was found unconstitutional even under the more difficult conditions of "strict scrutiny."
  • The court found that both the form and substance of the institution must be equal. If opposite-sex couples can get "married," then same-sex couples can get "married" too.
  • The ruling says that gay and lesbian relationships deserve the same respect and dignity as heterosexual relationships, in addition to equal rights, responsibilities and recognition.
  • California does not have a residency requirement for marriage, and couples do not have to prove that the marriage will be legal in their home state or country. The marriages will not be recognized by states like Alaska, but that does not prevent Alaskan couples from getting married in California.
  • When a huge, politically and economically powerful state like California starts marrying gay and lesbian couples . . . well, let's just say that there could be a profound ripple effect. There could also be a profound backlash.
Read the entire Supreme Court decision: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S147999.PDF 

I'm turning the rest of this historic marriage equality post over to the words and thoughts of LGBT Alaskans and our Allies.

Here are quotes from the official statements from Alaskans Together for Equality and the ACLU of Alaska.

Tim Stallard, Alaskans Together for Equality:
Alaskans Together is excited by the California Supreme Court Decision that strikes down the state's ban on gay marriage. The court recognized that marriage is a basic human right and it could not justify denying this right based on a person's innate sexual orientation. It is a great day for humanity that this important state Supreme Court acknowledged that gay and lesbian Americans are due the same rights under the constitution as other Americans. While there may be an initial backlash by those who do not believe gays and lesbians deserve equal rights, given the immense California economy and the state's leadership in American culture, gay and lesbian Alaskans should expect this decision to cascade across the USA.

Tiffany McClain, ACLU of Alaska's LGBT Public Policy Coordinator:
The ruling was decided by the California courts based on the California constitution and is not binding on Alaska courts. However, ACLU members and all Alaskans who support ending discrimination are celebrating this victory with our allies in California because it gives us hope that the rest of the country—including Alaska—will eventually follow suit, and that the movement to afford equal rights to all Americans, including LGBT Alaskans, will succeed.


The following are personal comments by individuals in our community. They are members and leaders of various groups, but these comments are not official statements, just personal reactions.

Mary Bess Bohall, Empress 35 of the ICOAA:
I think this is amazing victory for the GLBTA. But we have not won the war yet. There will be some backlash to this decision. We need to be united and continue our strong stand on this. Being a united community we will stand firm. 

Marsha Buck, Treasurer of PFLAG Juneau and Co-Chair of Alaskans Together for Equality
I am incredibly happy about the California decision! I just talked to a friend who said she and her partner spent last evening considering a trip to California to get married. They had already received a call from another couple, who are active in PFLAG Juneau, who have decided FOR SURE to go to California to be married. This good news definitely impacts us personally as Alaskans. Way to go California! I'm sending off several personal checks to make certain this decision is not overturned in November.

Tonei Glavinic, Youth Representative for Identity:
While this victory is obviously not the end of the struggle, it provides an important legal precedent that could lead to similar victories in other states in the very near future.

Elias Rojas, Alaskans Together for Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:
This is a great day for the LGBT movement! It's a great day for Equality! It's a hopeful day for gay and lesbian Alaskans. The California Supreme Court got it right! We should all celebrate today and begin organizing in Alaska tomorrow. This fight in California is far from over.

 

The LGBT movement and the California LGBT community will need our help to keep same-sex marriage in California. A discriminatory Consitutional Amendment that would ban same-sex marriage has already been submitted and will qualify to be placed on the ballot in November in California. If passed, it will nullify same-sex marriage in California. We must help defeat it. This effort will be the biggest campaign the LGBT community has ever experienced, costing more than 20 million dollars. 

 

The Alaska LGBT community can have an impact. We can play a big part in helping defeat this measure by speaking to our friends, our relatives, and especially voters who live in California and ask them to support marriage equality and get involved. Please consider supporting the Equality for All campaign by visiting their website at www.equalityforall.com and donating today. 

 

Let's enjoy this day and let's begin organizing tomorrow.

Shayle Hutchison, member of PFLAG Fairbanks:
Yesterday was a powerful victory - the language used by the court could have a significant positive impact on other LGBTQ civil rights issues. Historically, we are following a pattern of past civil rights successes. That doesn't mean our struggle is over. In fact, now more than ever is the time to mobilize and organize as a community.

Sara Boesser, Alaskans Together for Equality, PFLAG Juneau, and author of "Silent Lives: How High a Price?"
I'm thrilled with the California Supreme court decision to allow us to marry. It's recognition of the obvious: for us to have equal protection of the law, we must have equal rights and responsibilities under the law. Seems so simple, doesn't it?

 

I'm savoring the day, the week, because I know a painfully difficult path is still ahead for California if a statewide ballot allows all Californians to (again!) vote on whether or not we're first- or second-class citizens. I don't envy that struggle ahead. I intend to give more money to our side in that campaign than to any in my life.

 

To those against us who cry (falsely) that a democracy should not be decided by judges, I cannot understand how deeply they must have their heads in the sand to even consider forming those words.

 

Because: judges have made possible truly precious quantum leaps in our democracy that our nation now is proud to claim and proud to try to export oversees: judges' decisions made integration possible, judges made interracial marriage legal. Does anyone imagine for a nanosecond that either would have survived a popular vote? Of course not. If religious and conservative groups had mounted ballot initiatives back then to overturn those historic judgments, integration and interracial marriage would have been stopped in their tracks.

 

But Americans didn't take it upon themselves to put minority rights to a majority vote over integration or interracial marriage, even though feelings and tempers were as hot or hotter about those issues at the time as some feel now about same sex marriage. Instead, the decisions were allowed to stand: the law said "equal," and judges had finally determined "equal" didn't mean exceptions. And the populace – or at least the majority of the populace – began their slow shift to accept a larger definition of equality than they'd been born and bred to even consider.

 

It's in the hallowed fabric of America: judges' actions make for historic, life-changing, permanent decisions that anger some and elate others.

 

So it should be on same sex marriage. A popular vote would have killed integration and interracial marriage – and certainly many other things. But in the checks and balances that democracy is supposed to offer, sometimes it's right and fitting and necessary for judges to step further into democracy than the voting public is yet ready to go.

 

So to California – my heartfelt congratulations, and empathy too, for the still-hard road ahead.

Marriage, California Style

The Golden State made history today!  

Gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry in California, the state Supreme Court said today in a ruling that could be overturned by the voters in November.

In a 4-3 decision, the justices said the state's ban on same-sex marriage violates the "fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship." The ruling is likely to flood county courthouses with applications from couples newly eligible to marry when the decision takes effect in 30 days.

"The California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples," Chief Justice Ronald George wrote in the majority opinion.

Allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry "will not deprive opposite-sex couples of any rights and will not alter the legal framework of the institution of marriage," George said.

In addition, he said, the current state law discriminates against same-sex couples on the basis of their sexual orientation - discrimination that the court, for the first time, put in the same legal category as racial or gender bias.

Mayor Gavin Newsom, whose sanctioning of same-sex marriages in 2004 led to today's ruling, said, "It's about human dignity. It's about civil rights. It's about time."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has twice vetoed same-sex marriage bills, issued a statement today saying, "I respect the court's decision and as governor, I will uphold its ruling." He also restated his opposition to the constitutional amendment that is likely to be on the November ballot.

Churches and other religious institutions will not have to recognize or perform ceremonies for the civil marriages. However, conservatives are ready to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would undo the Supreme Court ruling and ban gay marriage.

The California Marriage case was argued on behalf of 14 same-sex couples and two organizations, Equality California and Our Family Coalition. The couples were represented by the ACLU with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, Heller Ehrman LLP, and the Law Office of David C. Codell, along with the City of San Francisco in a companion case. The cases, along with four others, were consolidated into one appeal.

Today, victory was achieved.

We Won! Same-Sex Marriage Ruled Constitutional in California

Breaking News: The California Supreme Court today ruled in a historic 4-3 decision that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry. 

Recurring GLBT events

Anchorage
Mat-Su Valley
Juneau
  • SEAGLA Social Fridays - 6-8 p.m at the Imperial Bar & Billiards, Downtown.
  • Juneau Pride Chorus - Fridays 5:15-6:45 p.m. Juneau Pride Chorus, a women's chorus, rehearses at the Resurrection Lutheran Church, August-May. Marsha
Fairbanks
  • Pump House Wednesdays - LGBTA social group Wednesdays at 9 p.m. at the Chena Pump House.
  • UAF Gay-Straight Alliance - GSA meeting Mondays 5-6 p.m. in the Women's Center (Eilson 112)
Anything else?

Partner Benefits Denied to Michigan Employees

by E. Ross

Michigan's same-sex marriage ban prevents governments and universities from providing health insurance to the partners of gay and lesbian workers, the state Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday. The decision affects university, community college, school district and government employees, according to the The Associated Press. The policies currently cover at least 375 couples.

Both Alaska and Michigan passed constitutional amendments restricting marriage to one man and one woman. The Michigan law also bans civil unions and domestic partnerships. This difference contributed to a Michigan ruling that is the opposite of the Alaska Supreme Court ruling on partner benefits.

The Michigan constitutional amendment approved in November 2004 says the union between a man and woman is the only agreement recognized as a marriage "or similar union for any purpose." The court ruled that while marriages and domestic partnerships aren't identical, they are similar. 

Voters "hardly could have made their intentions clearer," Justice Stephen Markman wrote, citing the law's "for any purpose" language. 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which represented the gay couples, said the ruling was "flawed and unfortunate." 

Twenty-six states have passed constitutional bans and nineteen have state laws restricting marriage to one man and one woman. Seventeen of those states have broader amendments that also prohibit the recognition of civil unions or same-sex partnerships.

The Michigan ruling is not the first from a state high court interpreting the scope of gay marriage bans.

In 2005, The Alaska Supreme Court ordered the state and the Municipality of Anchorage to offer plans that provide the same benefits for employees with same-sex domestic partners as for married employees. The Alaska Constitution prohibits the state from recognizing marriages between gay couples, so partners of gay employees could never receive those benefits. The workers were denied equal benefits for equal work, which violated the state's guarantee of equal protection.

The court unanimously agreed, stating that "denying benefits to the same-sex domestic partners who are absolutely ineligible to become spouses has no demonstrated relationship to the interest of promoting marriage." 

The ACLU of Alaska, which represented the couples, cheered the decision as an important victory for same-sex couples and their families.

In Michigan, gay and lesbian couples could lose their health benefits based on last week's ruling. Most of the employers have rewritten or will revise the benefit plans so that same-sex partners can continue getting health care. However, the legal status of those plans is unclear.

"It is an odd notion to find that a union that shares only one of the hundreds of benefits that a marriage provides is a union similar to marriage," wrote dissenting Justice Marilyn Kelly.

Local Progressive Blogs and Other Allies You Should Know About

by E. Ross

It's been a busy week of building blog alliances at Bent Alaska.

When the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner published an article about the fake web addresses that went to an anti-Berkowitz blog and to gay sites in San Francisco, the author Robert Dillon described the gay pages as "gay lifestyle" sites. I was dismayed to see a professional journalist use that phrase, so I posted a response here and sent an email to Mr. Dillon. He replied on his blog Alaskan Abroad, and noted in the comments that his AP Stylebook agrees with me. He also linked to Bent Alaska, and listed Bent in his blogroll. Thank you, Robert!

Alaskan Abroad is a well-read blog, and Robert Dillon is the Washington D. C. correspondent for the News-Miner. It didn't take long for someone to notice his post.

Philip Munger of Progressive Alaska saw it and followed the link to Bent Alaska. In his Saturday Progressive Blog Roundup, he included Bent with other blogs that he was adding to his blogroll, saying "Why did I not know about this site until this week? It is great!" Thank you, Philip!

Progressive Alaska is subtitled: Spreading the word about the growing presence of progressive Alaskans and their powerful ideas on the web. The current focus is on the political races and the environment, but a variety of progressive issues are covered on PA.

Then Linda of Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis saw the mention on Progressive Alaska and came for a visit. She left comments on several posts and listed Bent Alaska in her blogroll. Thank you, Linda!

Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis is another great progressive blog, and Linda is a long-time ally of the LGBT community. She sang with the band "Sky is Blu" and performed at the March on Washington in 1993. She also worked on the municipal ordinance that added sexual orientation to the protected classes of employees in Anchorage.

Meanwhile, Brendan Kelley at the Anchorage Press commented on Bent Alaska about the fake addresses going to gay sites. Fighting hate speech is part of Brendan's job, and he was one of the trio of reporters who uncovered evidence linking the web site trick to Jake Metcalfe's campaign. Metcalfe has now dropped out of the race, because of poor campaign decisions and a lack of funds.

If you live in Anchorage, you probably pick up a copy of this free alternative paper on Thursdays. Wherever you live, you can read and comment on their articles online at Anchorage Press.

These writers are our allies. They are also well-informed citizens and good reporters. Most of them are dedicated to progressive issues, including civil rights. If you want to keep up with political and environmental issues in Alaska, visit these sites regularly and leave an occasional comment.

That's how we build alliances in the blog world.

Copyright © 2008 by Bent Alaska.