Alaska Right to Life takes aim at judges

Posted: Sunday, November 05, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Superior Court Judge Mary E. Greene's decision that forced the University of Alaska to offer benefits to companions of unmarried employees has made her a campaign target for Alaska Right to Life.

The Anchorage-based group mailed 100,000 postcards to people across the state urging them to remove her from the bench because of her 1995 decision that forced the university to offer the same compensation to unmarried employees that it does married employees.

''They're all immoral,'' said Karen Vosburgh, executive director of Alaska Right to Life, of the six judges the group wants ousted.

The postcard says Greene ''found in Alaska's Constitution the right to marital benefits for same-sex couples.''

Greene, who had not seen the mailing but heard about it, calls the claim incorrect.

''It was unmarried couples -- period,'' she said.

The judge said her decision was not based directly on the Alaska Constitution. It was based on precedents set in case law that forbid landlords from refusing to rent to unmarried couples.

Greene's decision was upheld by the Alaska Supreme Court in a 5-0 decision.

''You don't get to choose the cases that you decide,'' Greene said. ''You just decide the case that you are given and you have to decide them in accordance with the law.''

University of Alaska spokesman Bob Miller said the university's current policy allows unmarried employees to collect partner benefits as a part of the Financially Interdependent Partners Program. He said most of the couples who collect the benefits are opposite-sex couples.

The Right To Life mailing, which calls the judges' decisions ''outrageous'' and the judges themselves ''out of control,'' also criticizes Supreme Court Justices Warren W. Matthews, Dana Fabe and Alexander O. Bryner. Superior Court Judges Sen Tan and Peter Michalski were criticized as well.

Tan, for example, is accused of legislating from the bench for his decision to strike down a parental consent law for minors' abortions.

''We thought Alaskans had a right to know about these judges on life and family issues,'' Vosburgh said.

Another group, Alaskans for Judicial Reform, is seeking to oust Fabe, Tan and Michalski, calling some of their decisions assaults on life, marriage, family and democracy.

''We feel they didn't go far enough,'' Vosburgh said of the other group.

Vosburgh said her group found that 70 percent of people who vote to retain judges do it because they don't have the information that would make them do otherwise.

''We provided that,'' Vosburgh said. ''You wouldn't believe how many people have called me and thanked me for this.''

Alaska Right to Life usually concentrates on abortion and euthanasia issues, Vosburgh said. The group made an exception by expanding its message to marriage when it sent out the mailing, she said.

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