A celebration in the Capital city called Equality For All, which centers around the recent Supreme Court’s landmark reversal of the Defense of Marriage Act, is more than an awareness event for equal rights.
“This is basically a giant wedding party,” explains Maureen Longworth, one of nine organizers of the event.
Since DOMA was struck down in June by the US Supreme Court allowing same-sex married couples equal treatment under federal law, Longworth has been celebrating, and wants the rest of Juneau to join in.
“It’s a big deal.”
Fellow event organizer Kimberly Crawford recognizes Alaska still has a long way to go.
“Things are changing but we still don’t quite have the rights that we deserve yet – the full, full rights.”
Longworth knows that change takes time.
She and her partner Lin Davis were one of several couples involved in a 1999 lawsuit against the state of Alaska, filed right after the state amended its constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. The American Civil Liberties Union demanded the state offer domestic partner benefits to employees in same sex relationships.
Six years later, the ACLU won. It was another three years before benefits were actually given.
“It’s been incremental change all the way along. At this point, I really do envision being able to be equal, completely equal, in our state. I’m not sure how long it’s going to take,” says Longworth.
Joshua Decker is interim executive director of ACLU Alaska. Since DOMA was reversed, he’s been traveling around the state conducting informational sessions and having what he calls a “happy conversation.” Juneau is his next stop.
“This is a new area of the law that same sex couples are now being recognized under and so it’s important that Alaskans know what their rights are so they are able to fully enjoy the benefits of being a citizen,” Decker explains.
One example of these rights pertains to the military and federal government employees who’ve been married.
“Civilian and military employees are now going to be eligible for all the spousal benefits in terms of health insurance, dental, life insurance. If you’re a military service member, you’ll be able to live on base, you’ll be able to move off base with the spouse, you’ll be able to get command-sponsored visas. It’s the US government fully recognizing the fact that those individuals are married,” he says.
Crawford is excited to hear about other rights and changes to law at the Equality For All celebration.
“I think we’re coming into a new age where people do realize that equal rights are just that – they’re equal rights – and everyone deserves them.”
Crawford says the recent Supreme Court decision is a big step forward and is optimistic more changes are to come.
The Equality For All celebration at the JACC, featuring local entertainment, food, drinks, and a silent auction, starts Friday at 7 pm. Saturday’s 1 pm event is a Q&A session at McPhetres Hall with a panel of experts discussing how recent Supreme Court decisions will impact same-sex couples in Alaska.
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