Sens. Murkowski and Sullivan, it’s time to support LGBTQ+ Alaskans

In the 1970s, I happily taught high school English and physical education in rural California. But when the Briggs Initiative flooded the state and the senator pushed to remove gay teachers from public schools, I felt unsafe in my cabin on a dark country road. When I saw parents scanning my singlehood and students carving “Mrs. Davis is a dyke” in wood desks, I decided to resign and devoted 45 years to working for gay civil rights.

Now, at 79 years old and a 28-year Alaska resident, I still want to live my life like everyone else. We, this people.

I spent 15 years at the Juneau Job Center assisting rural residents with training and employment, hearing stories of workers receiving anti-gay hostility. As recently as 2014, one young man through tears talked about getting fired from his janitorial job when the boss saw him and his boyfriend sitting outside eating dinner together.

As a gay state worker, I was paid less than my colleagues and could not include my wife on state health insurance. When 12 of us sued and won our Alaska Supreme Court case for same-sex family benefits, it took another year and a half to actually get the benefits. And once we got the benefits, all of us gay couples were charged a monthly $140 fee. Imputed tax, they said. No straight couples got taxed for their benefits.

We, this people.

Between 2014 and 2019 the Alaska Department of Revenue specialized in a new form of LGBTQ+ discrimination. ABC News ran the headline: Alaska denied benefits to gay couples despite court rulings. Alaska targeted same-sex military couples and denied the yearly PFD to their families.

When four families sued, the state released 800 emails showing Department of Revenue efforts to keep incorrect language in state literature and indicating 40 Alaskans had been denied PFDs. The denial letters referenced an outdated and unenforceable state statute, and the emails mentioned that programmers fiddled with the computer system to deny LGBTQ+ Alaskans their PFDs. And the released emails revealed Revenue shyness about reaching out to the attorney general’s office for clarification about lawfulness.


In 2017, a deputy Revenue director ordered everyone to stop these denials. They continued for two more years.

Many of us Alaskan LGBTQ+ elders have faced a lifetime of vicious acts. We wonder how safe we will be. My nervous system remembers San Francisco spit and rocks coming at me, my car torn open, tires slashed. Many of us lost large circles of friends to AIDS/HIV. Many of us live alone and closeted. Many dread medical care. When events like the denial of PFDs happen, we are reminded that many do not welcome us here. With no laws in Alaska that protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination across the state, older Alaskans like me, we, this people, fear cruel comments from those who care for us. Will we be wheeled to a TV room and left for the day? Or never given bed baths?

We LGBTQ+ elders want to live our lives like everyone else on this small and lonely planet.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, it’s time now for comprehensive, federal nondiscrimination protections. Show your support for older LGBTQ+ Alaskans and finally protect them from discrimination in our state.

Lin Davis is a member of the LGBTQ+ community and a long-term Juneau resident who has been working to pass the Equality Act.

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