Saturday, January 09, 2016

State Overreach - Micciche Marriage Bill Would Have State Override Local Decisions

'Federal Overreach' is a conservative pejorative meant to convey the idea that the federal government is meddling with state matters and overriding state autonomy.  During desegregation they used the term 'states' rights' to fight the federal dismantling of Jim Crow in the South.  

Then state's rights was about not changing the status quo that allowed whites to legislate their power over blacks.

Today, federal overreach is often about the power of states to allow development and exploitation of public resources without concern for local wishes or environmental damage.  If there was a real concern for local control by people who know the situation better, then the state (and I'm using Alaska here as my example) wouldn't have wiped out the Coastal Zone Management protections that allowed local folks to protect themselves from development that would destroy their way of life.

Often today, federal overreach, at least in Alaska, really means the feds interfere when a state rolls over for corporate interests.  After all, Koch sponsored Sen. Dan Sullivan was one of the folks who first championed the idea of federal overreach in Alaska.  At his confirmation hearings to be attorney general in 2010 he talked about how he would be joining with other attorneys general to fight in court against the Endangered Species  Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Act to protect 'economic opportunity.'

This is not to say that there aren't legitimate states' rights issues - as when the federal government tries to nullify strong state laws designed to protect the voting rights and  the health and safety and of state residents.

And now that the Anchorage Assembly has finally passed and gotten a mayor to sign an ordinance that has added lgbt folks to our anti-discrimination law, Micciche has submitted a bill to have the state void a big chunk of it.  He and others just aren't content to give Anchorage the autonomy from the state that they claim the state should have from the feds.

Basically, this bill is to allow people to refuse to marry or provide any services (food, photos, location, flowers, etc.) for a wedding of a same-sex couple.

Principles are a good thing.  But often they are just makeup to hide a the raw exercise of power.

This bill truly has the state fighting what they'd say is federal overreach in approving same sex marriage and then turning around and exercising state overreach to nullify a good chunk of Anchorage's newly amended anti-discrimination ordinance.

SENATE BILL NO. 120
"An Act relating to marriage solemnization."
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF ALASKA:
* Section 1. AS 25.05.261 is amended by adding new subsections to read:
(c) Nothing in this section creates or implies a duty on a person authorized to solemnize a marriage under (a)(1) or (3) of this section to
(1) solemnize a marriage; or
(2) provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, or celebration of a marriage.
(d) A person permitted to solemnize a marriage under (a)(1) or (3) of this section is not subject to criminal or civil liability for refusing to solemnize a marriage or refusing to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, or celebration of a marriage.
(e) The state or a municipality may not penalize a person who is permitted to solemnize a marriage under (a)(1) or (3) of this section for refusing to solemnize a marriage or refusing to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or municipal contract, grant, or license. privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, or celebration of a marriage. In this subsection, "penalize" means to take an action affecting a benefit or privilege guaranteed to the person by law, including a tax exemption or state or municipal contract, grant, or license.
The Supreme Court decision on same sex marriage would not require any religious authority to perform a same sex marriage if same-sex marriage were against the tenets of that religion.  So the part about solemnizing a marriage seems moot to me.  However, people who provide commercial services to the public are now required provides services for a same-sex marriage as they would for any marriage - a Jewish, or Catholic, or Hindu, or Muslim, or a marriage of two Asians, two African-Americans, two Russians, two Koreans,  and any combination of two people from any of those groups.  [UPDATE January 27, 2016:  After reading Micciche's January 24  commentary and rereading the bill and the statute it amends, I see that  commercial businesses are not exempted, but non-profits do seem to be exempted if they are connected to a clergyman who can solemnize a marriage.  I have a call in to Sen. Micciche to clarify some of the other claims he makes in the article about this having nothing to do with same-sex marriage, the Anchorage ordinance, or that "It does not protect anyone refusing services to interracial or special needs marriages."  I don't see anything in his bill that says clergy may refuse based on their religious doctrine.  It just says they can't be held liable for refusing, period.]   And if this law were passed, it would put a kink in things for gay and lesbian folks.  But I suspect only for as long as it would take to get to the state supreme court.

Our legislature has huge fiscal challenges ahead.  This seems a mean-spirited, divisive, and ultimately futile way to spend the little time our legislators have to settle the state's finances so that our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren can live in a socially and economically and environmentally healthy Alaska.

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