One of my favorite things to do when I lived in Alaska was to read the letters to the editor in the local newspapers. Being the Last Frontier, the people living there tend to be out on the fringes a bit more than you’d find in Minneapolis. For example, here are two letters published recently in Alaska. The first comes from Soldotna, a small community South of Anchorage:
Reader Voices Strong Opinion on Atheists
Itâ€™s time to stomp out atheists in America. The majority of Americans would love to see atheists kicked out of America. If you donâ€™t believe in God, then get out of this country.
The United States is based on having freedom of religion, speech, etc., which means you can believe in God any way you want (Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, etc.), but you must believe.
I donâ€™t recall freedom of religion meaning no religion. Our currency even says, â€œIn God We Trust.â€ So, to all the atheists in America: Get off of our country.
Atheists have caused the ruin of this great nation by taking prayer out of our school and being able to practice what can only be called evil. I donâ€™t care if they have never committed a crime, atheists are the reason crime is rampant.
And this one comes from Fairbanks:
Same sex benefits
March 2, 2007
To the editor:
A widespread misconception exists that any two human beings who choose to become roommates are eligible for and can receive domestic partner benefits. Not true.
Government entities and private companies who offer domestic partner benefits have created both personal and financial enrollment criteria. As an example, I am highlighting a few of the 13 to 16 required criteria for domestic partner benefits at the university and the state of Alaska:
1. In an exclusive personal relationship and have resided together for the last 12 months and intend to continue indefinitely;
2. Responsibility for each otherâ€™s health care costs;
3. Joint purchase or lease of real property;
4. Partner is primary beneficiary for the TRS/PERS and the Universityâ€™s Pension Plan;
5. Partner is primary beneficiary in employeeâ€™s will;
6. Partner has a power of attorney over employeeâ€™s property;
7. Partner has written power to make decisions about the employeeâ€™s health if the employee is unable to do so.
The complete forms are at here and here.
Contrast this with a heterosexual couple who can marry almost the first day they meet, never live together, but can immediately get benefits. The argument can be made that same-sex partners have to reflect upon their commitment and responsibilities in much more detail than many heterosexual couples do.
Finally emotionally healthy children are routinely raised to become productive adults in same-sex households. Denial of benefits to an employeeâ€™s partner would create a special burden. The children of the employee would have full benefits; the children of their partner would have none. Any couple in a blended family faces a special challenge creating an atmosphere of family unity. Any circumstance which suggests that one partnerâ€™s children are less than the other partnerâ€™s damages this. Thus perhaps the best argument for providing benefits to committed same-sex partners is for the support of the children in these families.
Support equal pay and benefits for equal work. Support the children of same-sex couples. Vote no on the April 3 advisory vote.
Straight but not narrow,
Clearly, the two writers probably don’t have much in common.
A state full on miners and environmentalists, vegetarians and hunters, Native Alaskans and developers is bound to have divisive politics. Good times.