Quality of Life: Why the Alaska Republican Party Has Me Cringing Again This Year

The Alaska Republican Party has got me cringing again this year.

If you thought last year’s legislative session was crazy, think again. We have reached a new level. In my first piece for Alaska Commons, nearly a year ago, I highlighted why I still believed in the Republican party.

“Small government. Local control. Responsible infrastructure projects. Reduced spending. Individual liberty. Strong defense. Creating entrepreneurial environments where small businesses thrive. These were the ideals I thought I had signed up for when I registered, for the first time, as a Republican at the age of eighteen…”

Today, I still believe in these ideals. It is difficult, but I still remain a registered Republican. This year’s legislative session has got me wondering, though, why am I still part of the party? On a national level, we lost what should have been an easy presidential election. There is a conversation going on within the party, at least among people I know, as to whether we need to be more humane and realistic on issues of immigration and marriage equality. I think this is a good thing, and it has me hopeful. Just because one is a Republican, the party that holds onto American traditions, that doesn’t mean we are against progress.

On a national level, I am hopeful the GOP will wake up soon, do their jobs in congress, and work to get things done. But in regard to the party in Alaska, I am scared. Some things are bothering me and they need to change.

So far the GOP has focused on attempting to get school vouchers through (without sending the proposal through the education committee), anti-choice proposals to attempt to abolish safe and legal abortions, and defying the will of the voters by reversing a rule that cruise ships cannot dump waste water in Alaskan waters.

What hits me even more personally is when asked about providing civil unions or equal rights for gay and lesbian couples, the Republican majority literally laughed. In a recent press briefing, Mark Miller of the Juneau Empire referred to a poll that indicated only 30% of Alaskan’s think there shouldn’t be some sort of recognition of same-sex couples, and asked how that issue might relate to the House Majority’s new guiding principles. It gives me hope that 70% of Alaskans think there should be some equality. It brings me hope because I happen to be one of those pesky “gays.”

Rep. Lance Pruitt answered that it wasn’t in their “Guiding Principles”  to have this discussion. He said he wanted to focus on the economy and infrastructure of Alaska,  and that the discussion wouldn’t be about what would happen in someone’s home. Frankly, he didn’t answer the question. Whether it is in their plans or not, recognition of same-sex couples should be a discussion. It does impact LGBT Alaskans like me. It has nothing to do with what is happening in my house, and everything to do with my quality of life as a whole. It has potential economic benefits for me as well. Currently, my partner and I do not share the same legal rights as Representative Pruitt and his wife. We have to find loopholes in the system and hopefully it will continue to work for us. Representative Pruitt may not be aware that even with a will that leaves everything to my partner of nine years, my family could go after anything I leave on this earth and have a good possibility to win in court. That, Representative Pruitt, has everything to do with my quality of life.

I am glad that Representative Pruitt has now apologized and I accept the House apology for their laughter.

This week I was listening to the Shannyn Moore Show on my way home from work. I don’t always agree with Ms. Moore. But I was in strong disagreement with her during a segment in which she essentially makes fun of anyone who is LBGT and Republican. While I can understand why she might have difficulty with the idea, as most LGBT people are either Democrats or mostly independent, sexual orientation or gender identity has nothing to do with party affiliation. While it is true that the Democratic Party has a better platform in regards to equality, not all in the party support full marriage equality. It will take people from both parties to get to where we need to be in this state and nation – just like it took people from both parties to get civil rights legislation passed for other minorities.

So yes, technically, I am gay and, technically, I am a Republican. But much like I am a Christian, those labels do not need to be combined. They are separate. Shannyn Moore, please continue fighting for equality. We need allies like you, but it does nothing to make fun of a person’s party.

The issue of getting closer to equality is just one example of how out of touch the Alaska Republican Party is. With 70% of my fellow Alaskans supporting some sort of legal recognition, my party really needs to take it seriously. For me, it fits into the ideals of a smaller government and individual liberty.

Like I have pointed out, it will take people of both parties to get to full equality. So why leave a party whose core ideals I still support over one issue? I can work within my party much more effectively than just walking away. Just like I will work within my party on environmental and other social issues.

I really want the Republicans in Alaska to thrive. I also want the Democratic party to thrive. When both groups thrive, we can have a healthy debate and figure things out. And I am hopeful we will figure this whole equal rights thing out soon.

To Alaska’s political parties: please, let’s be fair, civil, legal, constitutional, thoughtful, objective, and lend an ear from Alaskan’s on the direction they want the state to go on any myriad of issues.

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