JUNEAU — In the lead-up to this year’s elections, The Associated Press plans to publish an occasional list featuring the positions of the highest-profile Alaska U.S. Senate candidates on different issues.
All the campaigns contacted — Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and Republicans Joe Miller, Dan Sullivan and Mead Treadwell — agreed to participate.
The subject this time is same-sex marriage.
Over the last year, federal courts around the country have struck down state constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, similar to the ban that is in place in Alaska. Appeals are pending in a number of those cases, and Alaska’s attorney general has said he will continue to defend the state’s constitution. A proposed constitutional amendment to strike Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage, submitted by Senate Minority Leader Hollis French, D-Anchorage, didn’t go anywhere during the last legislative session.
These questions were posed to the campaigns via email:
— Alaska voters in 1998 defined marriage as between one man and one woman. That vote was a snapshot in time, attitudes have changed since then and the state’s population continually changes. Given that, should the state of Alaska put this issue again to the vote of the people rather than wait for a decision from the court? Why or why not?
— Is same-sex marriage a states’ right issue? Why or why not?
— Do you personally believe same-sex marriage should be legalized? Why or why not?
— What factors, if any, have influenced your thinking on this issue over the last 15 years?
— Sen. Mark Begich, first-term incumbent: “Alaskans are tired of government trying to peer into their personal lives and keep track of everything from who they call, to what they spend money on and who they love. That’s not the government’s business and Alaskans are right to be fed up with government intrusion in our everyday lives.
“I do not support discrimination of any kind. No matter who you love, everyone should have the same legal rights and privileges. Courts across the country are reaffirming this right and Alaskans should work together to end discrimination as we have done in the past. Values like respecting our neighbors and supporting one another shouldn’t disappear on issues as personal and important as marriage.
“Our laws should represent the collective respect and dignity Alaskans display towards one another every day.”
— Joe Miller, Republican nominee in the 2010 U.S. Senate race won with a write-in campaign by Sen. Lisa Murkowski: “The definition of marriage as between one man and one woman comes down to us through the millennia. Alaskans have overwhelmingly endorsed this general concept by adopting a constitutional amendment affirming traditional marriage.
“I support this and believe the People of Alaska are the best decision-makers on the issue, not unelected judges or the federal government. But the People’s decision is under threat by an activist judiciary. When I sat on the bench at both the state and federal levels, I knew my duty was to follow the law, not create it. Regrettably, that’s not the perspective of increasing numbers of unethical judges who insist on imposing their elitist views on the People. The courts have no business defining marriage, and should stop meddling outside their Constitutional jurisdiction.
“Despite the protests of judicial activists, no other states, like Massachusetts, should have the right to force Alaska to recognize their same-sex marriages. The Tenth Amendment of the Bill of Rights reserves the right to define marriage to the individual states, not the federal government.
“Those supporting the traditional family have come under increasingly vicious attacks over the last 15 years. Look at the firing of Phil Robertson from A&E and the forced resignation of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich to see what happens when one’s views run contrary to the establishment elite concerning same-sex marriage. And it’s not merely the loss of employment, but the virtual criminalization of Americans’ traditional and religious beliefs. Several Christian businesses in the lower-48 have been severely punished for their refusal to participate in same-sex marriages.
“We have lost a vital aspect of what it means to be an American when citizens are no longer free to express what they have learned from their families or their faith communities without threat of bankruptcy or worse.”
(Note: Robertson was briefly suspended by A&E from the series “Duck Dynasty” following comments he made to GQ magazine.)
— Dan Sullivan, most recently served as Alaska’s Natural Resources commissioner: “I believe that the issue of same-sex marriage should continue to be decided at the state level — as it has been in Alaska — and I support the decision made by Alaskans in 1998.”
Sullivan’s campaign declined to elaborate further.
— Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, elected to the job in 2010. He responded to each question individually.
— “I support traditional marriage. Two-thirds of the legislature can put this issue before the people at any general election. They have several options, including keeping the Constitution as is or even the Libertarian approach of getting government out of the business of defining marriage at all. In the meantime I hope courts respect the idea that states have choices and that defining marriage is not a role conferred on our national government by our national constitution.”
—Is same-sex marriage a states’ right issue? Why or why not?: “Yes. I am running to bring decision-making home, and in this case, the voters of Alaska have made a decision it is their choice to make. I personally support traditional marriage. I have sworn an oath to defend our state’s constitution. I believe it is within our right as a state to make that determination, as the national Constitution reserved powers to the states.”
—Do you personally believe same-sex marriage should be legalized? Why or why not?: “I support traditional marriage as it is now in our state Constitution. I believe marriage is a sacrament of the church, and while we can have a debate in Alaska about our choices, or whether we want government involved at all, our national government has no role in defining or in administering marriage.”
— What factors, if any, have influenced your thinking on this issue over the last 15 years?: “In my mind I see an increasing number of people looking to national government to change our culture. We need to look instead to government to protect our liberties. Religious freedom is one liberty which is too easily trampled on by government. I respect the fact there are strong religious beliefs on this issue. I am influenced by my own faith. Already, business people are being sued or people are being subjected to boycotts or personnel actions for holding to or stating their religious beliefs on this issue, and that’s wrong.”