We can do better and we will.
There was powerful testimony to be heard last Thursday night, as Alaskans voiced their opposition to House Bill 105, “An Act relating to parental rights in a child’s education.”
This is a bill that promotes anti-LGBTQ legislation. I listened to some gut-wrenching testimony about why this bill is awful and seems to want to subjugate the rights of our LGBTQ community. I listened to more than two hours of the nearly five hours of testimony (119 people testified; 103 people opposed this bill and 16 were in favor).
After I heard testimony from the LGBTQ community, it is my feeling that the governor should start a commission to investigate the potential hate crimes that may have occurred to many of these people. Much of the testimony was disturbing and hard to hear, but important to know.
This bill reminds me of another time that Alaskans have had to stand up for their rights. In 1945, Elizabeth Peratrovich stood up to the Alaska State Legislature to explain why they needed to vote in favor of a bill that would ban discrimination based on race in Alaska. It did not come easy. Many Alaska legislators were not in favor of Alaskan Natives having equal rights.
It is hard for me to understand why our governor would want to create a bill that marginalizes some Alaskans. Isn’t the job of a governor to support all the people that live in our state? Currently, another bill, H.B. 99, is being heard in the House. This bill would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Our government is meant to protect and safeguard all the people of our state. And after listening to what has happened to many people in the LGBTQ community, H.B. 99 makes a lot more sense that H.B. 105.
I wonder how many of the people who testified in support of H.B. 105 have any real dealings with members of the LGBTQ community? I hope that the legislators who heard the heartfelt testimony from Alaskans opposed to this bill will now have a deeper understanding of the implications of this bill.
I hope the legislators keep working on bills that promote harmony; not bills that are meant to pit Alaskan against Alaskan. There are a lot of Alaskans hurting right now: Food, shelter and economic security issues are affecting many in our great state. Time is running out for this legislative session. Let’s focus on those things and stop bills that are discriminatory.
Let’s work to understand each other better. We all have points of view that need to be heard. I believe when we truly listen to one another, we have a better chance to treat one another with the dignity and compassion we all deserve. We don’t have to agree with one another to be respectful and courteous.
Alex Koplin is 35-year resident of Homer. A retired school teacher and proud father and grandfather, he believes everyone needs to be listened to.