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Op-ed: The pursuit of happiness - without government interference

Posted: June 19, 2013 - 4:08pm

Not too long ago, I had the honor of nominating an Alaskan family as “Angels in Adoption,” a celebration of the selflessness shown by foster care families and those who adopt children. They arrived in Washington, DC, a military family who had opened their doors to not one child but four siblings to make sure that these sisters and brother had the simplest gift you can give a child: a home together. We had lunch together, and they shared their stories with me. All the while, the children politely ate lunch and giggled as content youngsters do. Given my daily hectic Senate schedule, it’s not often that I get to sit down with such a happy family during a workday — and I think of them often, as everything our nation should encourage.

I bring them up because the partners were two women who had first made the decision to open their home to provide foster care to the eldest child in 2007. Years later — and after a deployment abroad with the Alaska National Guard for one of them — they embraced the joy and sacrifice of four adopted children living under the same roof, with smiles, laughter, movie nights, parent-teacher conferences and runny noses.

Yet despite signing up and volunteering to give themselves fully to these four adorable children, our government does not meet this family halfway and allow them to be legally recognized as spouses. After their years of sleepless nights, afterschool pickups and birthday cakes, if one of them gets sick or injured and needs critical care, the other would not be allowed to visit them in the emergency room — and the children could possibly be taken away from the healthy partner. They do not get considered for household health care benefit coverage like spouses nationwide. This first-class Alaskan family still lives a second-class existence.

The Supreme Court is set to make a pair of decisions on the topic of marriage equality shortly, and the national conversation on this issue is picking back up. This is a significant moment for our nation when it comes to rethinking our society’s priorities and the role of government in Americans’ private lives and decisions, so I want to be absolutely clear with Alaskans. I am a life-long Republican because I believe in promoting freedom and limiting the reach of government. When government does act, I believe it should encourage family values. I support the right of all Americans to marry the person they love and choose because I believe doing so promotes both values: it keeps politicians out of the most private and personal aspects of peoples’ lives — while also encouraging more families to form and more adults to make a lifetime commitment to one another. While my support for same sex civil marriage is something I believe in, I am equally committed to guaranteeing that religious freedoms remain inviolate, so that churches and other religious institutions can continue to determine and practice their own definition of marriage.

With the notion of marriage — an exclusive, emotional, binding ‘til death do you part’ tie — becoming more and more an exception to the rule given a rise in cohabitation and high rates of divorce, why should the federal government be telling adults who love one another that they cannot get married, simply because they happen to be gay? I believe when there are so many forces pulling our society apart, we need more commitment to marriage, not less.

This thinking is consistent with what I hear from more and more Alaskans especially our younger generations. Like the majority of Alaskans, I supported a constitutional amendment in 1998 defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, but my thinking has evolved as America has witnessed a clear cultural shift. Fifteen years after that vote, I find that when one looks closer at the issue, you quickly realize that same sex unions or civil marriages are consistent with the independent mindset of our state — and they deserve a hands-off approach from our federal policies.

First, this is a personal liberty issue and has to do with the most important personal decision that any human makes. I believe that, as Americans, our freedoms come from God and not government, and include the rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What could be more important to the pursuit of happiness than the right to choose your spouse without asking a Washington politician for permission? If there is one belief that unifies most Alaskans — our true north — it is less government and more freedom. We don’t want the government in our pockets or our bedrooms; we certainly don’t need it in our families.

Secondly, civil marriage also touches the foundation of our national culture: safe, healthy families and robust community life. In so many ways, sound families are the foundation of our society. Any efforts or opportunity to expand the civil bonds and rights to anyone that wants to build a stable, happy household should be promoted.

Thirdly, by focusing on civil marriage — but also reserving to religious institutions the right to define marriage as they see fit — this approach respects religious liberty by stopping at the church door. As a Catholic, I see marriage as a valued sacrament that exists exclusively between a man and a woman. Other faiths and belief systems feel differently about this issue — and they have every right to. Churches must be allowed to define marriage and conduct ceremonies according to their rules, but the government should not tell people who they have a right to marry through a civil ceremony.

I recently read an interview where Ronald Reagan’s daughter said that she believes he would have supported same-sex marriage, that he would think “What difference does it make to anybody else’s life? I also think because he wanted government out of peoples’ lives, he would not understand the intrusion of government banning such a thing. This is not what he would have thought government should be doing.”

Like Reagan, Alaskans believe that government works best when it gets out of the way. Countless Alaskans and Americans want to give themselves to one another and create a home together. I support marriage equality and support the government getting out of the way to let that happen.

Lisa Murkowski represents Alaska in the U.S. Senate.

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dragonfly 06/20/13 - 06:53 pm
Respecting the State of Alaska's Constitution as a US Senator

There is no logic in defying the laws of nature. Even those with no religious beliefs know this. Marriage has been defined as between one man and one woman for thousands of years for good reasons.

Sen. Murkowski’s way of thinking has evolved enough for her to sound more like Pres. Obama everyday. They both seem to think that they know better than God and the majority of the people. Murkowski supports a law that will harm the decent moral values of the entire state and country and I have a problem with this. Our government was founded on Christian values that have served us well. These values helped build the greatest country in the world. There is good reason why “In God We Trust” is on almost every federal building in Washington, DC. Going against God’s law is the weakest link in our society today and has taken family values to the lowest level in the history of our country. This is quite the opposite from which Murkowski would have us believe with her story of adoption.

She has abandoned her Conservative voters and is going in the direction where she thinks she will gain more votes because she sees the direction of the country changing with all the propaganda the federal government and special interest groups have been feeding us

Sen. Murkowski is suppose to be a representative for all Republicans in Alaska and on this issue; she is only supporting the minority.

The secular movement in this country has done nothing to improve our society. It is attempting to make anyone who opposes their radical agenda feel guilty and sometimes intimidated for not supporting their beliefs. It doesn’t even acknowledge the right of an unborn baby in late term abortions. It is the force behind over reaching and abusive big government. Our country hasn’t been this divided since the Civil War.

The following is a portion of a letter sent to me by Senator Murkowski in 2004. At that time, she appeared to be concerned about State Rights.

In 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman for federal purposes, but leaving it to each state to determine how it would legislate same-sex marriage. Alaska acted on this issue. There is concern, however, that by the court decision the U.S. Constitution’s full faith and credit clause (Article IV, section 1) could override Alaska’s Constitution on marriage. Without a constitutional amendment defining marriage, a court from another jurisdiction could invalidate the will of the people of Alaska and the Alaska Legislature.

Apparently, Murkowski no longer supports all of Alaska’s Constitution or the majority of voters in Alaska and the entire country. Let’s hope the Supreme Court has more wisdom than Senator Murkowski and upholds the rights of the states. Perhaps some day Murkowski will find the integrity to run as a Democrat and stop attempting to deceive Republicans.

AKtoAZ 06/21/13 - 02:23 pm
The Hypocritical Christian...

I am a christian, a republican, a heterosexual, and an Alaskan. There is much more to me than that, but for arguements sake, let's leave it at that. It amazes me that with everything the bible says, opposition to marriage equality is what many christians these days like to set their values on. How about the good ol' "thou shall not judge, and love thy neighbor."

If you have read your bible as I have mine, you would know that no sin is worse than another sin. So, according to the bible, while the haters are judging others and protesting "God's word and will" about the "abomination" of lgbt, Satan is making you a comfortable spot where you can spend your eternity. After all, the bible says that so it must be correct. Good thing that their is always forgiveness, but you better start praying and asking now! Until then, I'll pray for you!

I think it is amazing how fast the world will end when people start accepting people that have different lifestyles and opinions. Almost as fast as blacks and whites being forced to go to the same schools, I'm sure. (sarcasm)

As for the children that are affected... There are many orphanages in America. Those kids didn't end up there because a couple gay people decided to say "I DO." However, that could be the reason that they get out of there. Why don't we ask those children if they care about gay rights? If it means they get to be loved, I'm sure they are all for equality. It pains me to think that our hatred for the unknown outweighs our love for humanity and children.

The sooner that we can ALL realize that people deserve love and rights regardless of sexual preference OR can realize that it isn't going to "infect our perfect christian lives," the sooner the government can focus on the issues that government should... Jobs, debt, and how to get rid of Obama!

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