Mike Dingman: It's time for Alaska to strike down ban on same-sex marriage

Mike Dingman

On Monday a lawsuit was filed that challenges the ban on same sex marriage set out in the Alaska Constitution.

It's about time.

The tide is turning on same sex marriage. Not only in states that are designated a particular hue, but everywhere.

Laws and constitutional amendments banning same sex marriage are dropping like mosquitoes on a sunny Alaskan afternoon.

Last year the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a federal ban on same sex marriage was unconstitutional.

That decision has been tested in the courts around America and the overwhelming outcome is a change in the atmosphere for same sex marriage -- even in traditional Bible Belt states where you wouldn't expect this type of change to come so easily.

Arkansas Circuit Court Judge Chris Piazza wrote beautifully in the last paragraph of his decision striking down the same sex marriage ban in his state.

Speaking of the plaintiffs in Loving v. Virginia, which invalidated bans on interracial marriage, he said,

"The hatred and fears have long since vanished and she and her husband lived full lives together; so it will be for the same-sex couples. It is time to let that beacon of freedom shine brighter on all our brothers and sisters. We will be stronger for it."

Same sex couples in Arkansas are now rushing to get marriage licenses as the state plans to appeal the ruling.

What about Alaska?

Couldn't happen right? Alaska is a "red state". Public opinion here would never support such a ruling. In fact the ban on same sex marriage in Alaska exists because in 1998 voters overwhelmingly approved a Constitutional Amendment. So, yeah, this could never happen here.

Don't be so sure.

First of all, Alaska isn't a "red state". Alaska may have voted for the Republican in every Presidential election except for one outlier, however, Alaska doesn't act like a state that supports one particular party.

Our junior Senator is a Democrat - whom many refer to as the "deciding vote" on Obamacare. (Or the Affordable Care Act, if you're more into formalities) Polling suggests that Alaskans are in favor of the voter proposition that will legalize marijuana on the November ballot and we are still, by the way, an owner state that writes every resident a check every October. Even the conservatives who decry the socialist aspects of the PFD run out to spend their check before the weekend is over.

We just seem to have the pesky desire to protect individual rights - even when those rights interfere with the Republican Agenda.

You can refer to us as a "purple state" if you will or a conservative state with libertarian leanings - but it has been clear for quite a while that Alaska is certainly not a red state.

Also, things have changed since 1998, around the country, and here at home.

A Public Policy Polling survey conducted from Jan. 30 through Feb. 1st says that a plurality of Alaskans are in favor of same sex marriage 47 percent in favor with 46 percent opposed.

This is certainly a slim margin, however, according to Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling in the press release for the poll, "Public opinion in Alaska has moved 9 points in support of gay marriage over the last year."

Combine that with the overwhelming majority that voted to approve the same sex marriage ban in 1998 and you can clearly see a shift in thinking when it comes to same sex marriage.

Beyond the numbers though, the idea of welcoming our same sex neighbors into marriage just has an Alaskan feel to it. As Alaskans we are in favor of individual rights. We value our privacy and we live by the live and let live philosophy.

Many people came to Alaska in search of a more simple life. They came in search of a society where people aren't judging others by the vehicle they drive, the clothes they wear or the contents of their bank account.

We pride ourselves on living in a society where you can walk into the swankiest restaurant in town in jeans and not stand out at all.

The truth is that allowing same sex couples to marry the person they love will not destroy marriage or end society as we know it and - even more importantly - it will not affect heterosexual couples in any way.

It will simply allow people to marry the person they've chosen to spend their life with.

Alaskans are changing their minds on same sex marriage. We are ready to embrace our same sex partners and pop the cork on the champagne at their wedding and the courts should follow suit.

It's not just the right thing to do - it's the Alaskan thing to do.

Mike Dingman is a fifth-generation Alaskan born and raised in Anchorage. He is a former UAA student body president and has worked, studied and volunteered in Alaska politics since the late 90s.

Mike Dingman