Sarah in the Wilderness

Governor Palin took her first tentative step into the wilderness December 20, 2006 with her signing of HB4002 into law (Ch 1 4SSLA 06). The Act calls for an advisory vote on the question:

“Shall the legislature adopt a proposed amendment to the state constitution to be considered by the voters at the 2008 general election that would prohibit the state, or a municipality or other subdivision of the state, from providing employment benefits to same-sex partners of public employees and to same-sex partners of public employee retirees?”

Why wouldn’t the new Governor take this opportunity to demonstrate the sea-change in doing business she campaign upon, saving the State the funds that would be spent on such an exercise and rejecting the polarizing politics that has incapacitated this State?

Alaskans must recognize that Palin’s real constituency are the angry white late-comers of the Kenai Peninsula and the Mat-Su Valley. While Alaska was at one time very “liberal” (an unholy mix of libertine and libertarian), the cultural result of boomer migration has turned the urban hinterland into a subarctic Bible-Belt. While the rest of the country has now turned away from the dogmatism promoted by the fundamentalist religious right, Alaska, as always, is 180 degrees out of sync.

Alaska is still living in the “glory days” of the Defense of Marriage Act (an Act which was intended to bar the application of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution to same-sex marriages authorized in any U.S. state or territory.) DOMA is certainly flawed (it does not address recognition of same-sex marriages authorized by foreign governments) and likely unconstitutional.

But what is this all about? While we are told that a core Republican philosophy is small government that stays out of interpersonal matters, Sarah’s supporters are not focused so much on political philosophy than on a 20th Century Puritanism; they want the freedom to legislate their own morality, and don’t let the door hit you on your way out if you disagree.

The Governor’s actions are is not about the impact of extending access to insurance benefits to same sex couples as early adopters have indicated that providing same sex health benefits is not more expensive. Were it about some policy need to differentiate betwen kinds of recognized family bonds Alaska could have adopted civil union laws as have been adopted in a number of other jurisdictions. Palin is simply caving in to her Puritans supporters and her refusal to veto a measure whose purpose is clearly to disenfranchise members of Alaskan society based on the type of sex they engage in signals her willingness to follow, not lead.

Let’s face it, the litigation underlying this brouhaha resulted from the fact that Alaskans were being denied health coverage. Maybe Sarah should have launched an initiative to make affordable health care available to all Alaskans….

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