Should Alaska continue offering benefits to same-sex couples?

Benefits struggle reveals intolerance

By Teresa Combs

“The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

Sound familiar? Probably not. That’s a bit of historical evidence from 1796 in the Treaty of Tripoli, and one of the explicit statements that emphasize the nonreligious founding of our nation. Many people enjoy ignoring that, however, because they misinterpret “freedom of religion” (including the choice to not pursue one) as “freedom of only a couple religions to dominate societal morals with complete disregard to our nation’s liberties.”

We Americans tend to pride ourselves on our freedom so much that we wear mottos on our bumper stickers and shirts proclaiming it. But the disclaimer that not many are aware of warns that it’s only a selective freedom available to the few who are able to meet unwritten, rigid societal standards.

Forbidding gay couples from shared benefits is discrimination. Basing legislation on what people find attractive is insulting. Dominating their way of life because others, who are insecure and prejudiced, think they’re jeopardized by a gay person’s presence is disgusting and bigoted. Deciding who can get what based on what goes on in a private home is bringing us closer to a “Big Brother”-governed state.

There are signs on campus pleading voters to “protect marriage.” But what is marriage being threatened by? Some conspiracy initiated by the gay community? The only agenda it holds is the desire to be equal. And if their personal choices are so damning and so impeding to your personal life, then perhaps it’s you we ought to be protecting marriage from.

Future generations will look back on our point in history and wonder, “What were they thinking?” It is just how we reflect on the past, when certain groups were segregated, not allowed to participate in government, or live their lives like humans. Our story now is not about viciously judging people based on color or gender, but what they like and whom they love.

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There is an opportunity to extend vital benefits, and some want to take it away. How is it fair that public servants are giving their all to the state, just like their heterosexual counterparts, but are unable to reap equal benefits? Does it matter so much that money will go to fund benefits for a gay couple, straight couple or anyone at all? None of us are worthy or just enough to have the audacity to declare that only a certain people are allowed benefits and marriage.

To classify and ostracize people because they share a belief or lifestyle is nothing but a nuisance that contributes to an endless cycle of hatred and prejudice. A nation suffers when its people lie to themselves: We are never going to be free until we release this intolerance and every single one of our country’s citizens is truly able to know what freedom means.

Keep benfits, and spending, in check

By James Halpin

Forget the Scripture. Forget the name-calling. It’s no great secret that everyone is equal when it comes to raising a family. That is, everyone, gay or straight, is equally capable of being a deadbeat. That’s why I think proponents of affording benefits to same-sex partners of state employees are right: This is not about the sanctity of marriage. That was lost in the ’60s.

This is about a business arrangement called health care coverage. It’s not personal.

It is not about civil rights or discrimination. Last I checked, no one in this country had a right to receive discount health care coverage. Everybody does have a right to be treated in emergencies, and everybody also has an equal opportunity to pay for such care. But to force the state to subsidize health care for unmarried people is only one step shy of enacting universal health care. And that is simply cost-prohibitive.

As is the case with most government spending, the cost of same-sex benefits in Alaska has started off relatively low – the low-ball estimate is $464,000 for fiscal year 2007, according to the Alaska Division of Retirement and Benefits. But once word gets out that Alaska is offering up this gravy train, you can be sure more and more people will be lining up: The division estimates that the annual price tag could be as much as $3.2 million in health care costs within four years.

If this is an issue of public health, as proponents of increased benefits would have us believe, why limit benefits at all? I think one could argue pretty convincingly that in some cases roommates are more financially dependent on each other than some married couples are.

The point is that the state shouldn’t be in the position to gauge the depth of a relationship. With married couples, it doesn’t. Married couples have a marriage certificate proving that they are committed to one another. But even then, fraud is rampant. People marry all the time to get citizenship and benefits, especially in the military. Creating more opportunities for such fraud hardly seems like an answer.

And even though gays are required to sign an affidavit declaring their homosexuality to get these benefits, it is not enough to justify expansion of the welfare state. People need to earn their benefits, pure and simple. Otherwise, we will see increasingly rampant government spending as the country launches into the Social Security fiasco of the 21st century.

In order to avoid that, the constitution needs to be amended. Gov. Sarah Palin wanted to play it safe by holding the April 3 advisory vote – at an estimated cost of $1 million – to test the waters. Well, as Lyndon B. Johnson once said, “While you’re saving your face, you’re losing your ass.”

In our quest to be politically correct, let’s try not to lose more than we need to.