It was a rollicking good time at the House Majority press conference in Juneau, Alaska, on Friday. Mark Miller, a reporter from the Juneau Empire cited a recent poll from Public Policy Polling in which only 30 percent of Alaskans were opposed to legally recognizing same-sex partnerships. That means 70 percent of the population in Alaska thinks that gay people should have the right to a legal union. In light of these results, particularly in a conservative state which was the first to amend its Constitution to only recognize marriage as "between one man and one woman," Miller asked the Republican House caucus if they would support legally recognized civil unions or domestic partnerships for same sex couples in Alaska.
He got his answer -- uproarious laughter. Yes, hilarity ensued from those behind the microphones. Leading the bellowing guffaws were Speaker of the House Mike Chenault, and Rep. Craig Johnson (who literally threw his head back laughing). Once the amusement at the thought of civil rights for gay people died down, House Majority Leader Lance Pruitt commented that the caucus wasn't going to address that issue. What they were really focused on were "things that would allow people to have a great life," like making money, and extracting natural resources. Apparently Pruitt believes either the right for your relationship to be legally recognized by the state doesn't help make life great, or gay people are not actually "people."
Miller: I'm looking at a recent Public Policy Polling survey of Alaska that found that only 30 percent of respondents believed there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple's relationship in Alaska. I'm just curious -- would the caucus support the idea of having domestic partnerships or civil unions open to same-sex couples?
Pruitt: Uhhh.... I don't know if I saw that in our guiding principles. (Laughter dies down)
As you'll notice, most of the discussion we had in here was related to um... they all intertie. Whether it's economics... economics and its impacts on communities, whether it's roads to resources, which is a lot of... I think what what's is important about this caucus is that we focus on the things that really allow people's uh.. allow people to have a great life. We're not talking... we didn't have a discussion here about what happens inside your home. We had a discussion here about whether you can live... uh... whether you can make money, you can... whether there's a great economy, and whether or not you're going to be... have the opportunity to live in Alaska with a great future. Now, your discussion on that? We didn't talk about that, and uh... I'll be straight. We did not talk about that particular issue, and that was not something that we said, "We're going to make that one of our guiding principles!" It wasn't something that came up in our discussion.
Sifting through Pruitt's large crock of word salad we can glean a few tidbits. In addition to not thinking legal unions contribute to a "great life," we learn that either marriage or gayness apparently only affects one "in the home." Neither does a legal union have anything to do with having a "great future." Equality is not a "guiding principle" for the Republican House caucus, and neither is the overwhelming majority opinion of the voters. Frankly, it's really just about the money. But hey, at least Lance Pruitt is going to be "straight."
After the video was released by the local blog Alaska Commons, it went viral, and the House Republican caucus got an earful. Monday morning, they issued an "apology" after they were informed by irate constituents that laughing out loud at the mere thought of Alaskans having legal recognition of same-sex partnerships was inappropriate.
"I would like to make two things clear: laughter was not an appropriate response under any circumstances, and we regret and apologize for the reaction to that question. It was a serious question; it is a serious issue -- and it is not something the Caucus has taken a position on."
Speaker Chenault (my emphasis)
"I completely agree: laughter was inappropriate. However, it's clear from the totality of the response and circumstances the laughter was in reaction to which legislator had to field the difficult question, and did not go to the merits of the issue.
"Regardless, laughter was not appropriate and for that we sincerely apologize."
It's not him, it's you! According to Chenault, they were all just having themselves a good laugh at Lance Pruitt's expense, since he was the one forced to talk about the gay stuff in public. Hahaha. Get it now? That's why it was so doggone funny. You just have to look at the big picture and the totality of the response to understand why you're actually wrong, and have no right to criticize Chenault for laughing.
There's nothing like an apology followed by a "however" followed by the apologist thinking you're really that stupid.
The good news is that Alaskans are 70 percent more enlightened than their representatives.
[Read more about news and politics from the Last Frontier at TheMudflats.net]