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House Majority apologizes for laughing at same-sex union question

Suzanna Caldwell

Hell hath no fury like an Internet scorned.

The Alaska House Majority was reminded of that this weekend, after video of a press conference surfaced Saturday night showing members of the caucus giggling when asked whether the group would support the idea of domestic partnerships or civil unions for same sex couples.

Those quick laughs quickly found derision, as numerous online publications -- including ThinkProgress and Jezebel -- called out the caucus.

On Monday, House Majority leader Rep. Lance Pruitt apologized for the reaction in a written statement.

“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.”

The latter part was a sentiment Pruitt offered during the press conference Friday, when Juneau Empire reporter Mark Miller asked the caucus to respond to a recent Public Policy Polling survey about same-sex marriage rights. Only 30 percent of respondents answered that there should be no legal recognition of gay couples’ relationships in Alaska. The Alaska Constitution defines marriage in Alaska as a relationship between one man and one woman.

Miller asked Pruitt whether the caucus thought gays in Alaska should be eligible for domestic partnerships or civil unions.

But before he got his answer, members of the caucus are seen laughing even before Pruitt responded.

“They all inter-tie" at the intersection of happiness, Pruitt said of the issues the majority caucus discussed. "Whether it’s economics and its impact on healthy communities, whether it's roads to resources ... What’s important about this caucus is that we’ve focused on the things that 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 make money, there’s a great economy and whether or not you can live in Alaska and have a great future."

The caucus press conference was set to outline the group's “guiding principles” for the remainder of the legislative session. House Speaker Rep. Mike Chenault noted it was “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.”

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Contact Suzanna Caldwell at suzanna(at)alaskadispatch.com

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