It’s been an exciting time in Alaska. Witnessing the fall of discriminatory laws and the rise of support for marriage equality has been both exhilarating and emotional. Many of us never thought we would see the day when LGBTQ couples could legally get married in Alaska.
However, even as marriage equality continues to gain momentum in our state, the Northwest, and across the country, it is critical that we stand up for our community by voting on Tuesday, November 4th.
With each victory we make, opponents of equality will push back—fighting to remove our hard-earned rights. We can’t let that happen.
While October’s court rulings in support of marriage equality are already having a monumental impact on LGBTQ couples across Alaska, many opponents of equality will do everything in their power to revoke the new law.
Not to mention that there is still much work to be done before all LGBTQ Alaskans are able to live openly and safely in their communities—including protecting people from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
A real disparity exists between what Alaskans want and need in terms of everyday protections, and the policies our elected officials vote into law.
For instance, a new statewide survey commissioned by BalanceAK—a coalition of organizations dedicated to social justice and fairness—finds Alaskans support a variety of issues that would bring equality to our state, including policies to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Alaskans from discrimination (supported by 58% of Alaskans).
Despite this, recent efforts to extend employment and housing protections to LGBTQ Alaskans—like former Rep. Kerttula’s House Bill 139 and Sens. Gardner & Josephson’s Senate Bill 131—only saw one hearing, and died in committee.
By voting for pro-equality candidates that share our values, we can ensure that our voices are represented at both the state and local level. LGBTQ Alaskans pay taxes, vote, serve in the military, and run small businesses. They work hard and pay into the same system as everyone else; they deserve to be treated as such.
How do we know which candidates support us and our values? BalanceAK reached out to Alaska’s 2014 candidates to find out where they stand on social justice issues—ranging from wage equity to workplace protections, and from subsistence rights to access to healthcare. See the results here. While only 25% of registered candidates responded, we are still open to hearing from and learning where each candidate stands on the issues that matter to everyone.
In addition to voting pro-equality candidates into office, there is an important measure on the ballot that would have a positive impact on LGBTQ Alaskans. Poverty is a problem that has had a devastating impact on our community—33% of lesbian couples and 20% of gay male couples without a high school diploma are living in poverty. In addition, close to 20% of children being raised by LGBTQ couples are living in poverty.
We believe that voting Yes on 3 represents an important step in advancing equality and reducing poverty for all Alaskans. Pride Foundation is a proud supporter of Ballot Measure 3 to raise the Alaska minimum wage.
We hope you’ll join us starting now and until next Tuesday by exercising your right to vote. Let’s use our power at the ballot box to ensure that this year’s elections represent fairness, dignity, and respect.
Click here to find helpful information from the State of Alaska on how to find the nearest polling place, candidates running in your district, and sample ballots with the full range of issues Alaskans will decide on.
Josh Hemsath is Pride Foundation’s regional development organizer in Alaska. Email Josh.