Karine Jean-Pierre
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A Real Threat to Marriage Equality Looms Over Alaska

Congressional candidate Andrew Gray and his family

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed in 2011. At that time, I was studying to be a physician assistant and racking up enormous student debt. The option of joining the military to pay off my $170,000 in loans was suddenly on the table. I followed through and joined the Army National Guard.

Although my husband and I had signed domestic partnership papers before I was commissioned, the military would only honor a federally recognized marriage as a qualification for spousal benefits. So in 2015, when the Supreme Court released its Obergefell v. Hodges decision guaranteeing marriage equality, we married. This meant that while I was deployed with the Army to Kosovo in 2019, my husband and son, whom we had just adopted from the foster system, received all the family benefits they were entitled to.

That could soon change.

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier this summer, I read with alarm Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion urging the reconsideration of rights for same-sex couples. I know I was not alone. Millions of LGBTQ people live in states with trigger bans on marriage equality that would go into effect if Obergefell falls — including my home state of Alaska.

In 1998, Alaskan voters added an amendment to the state constitution that prohibited the recognition of same-sex marriage. Over a decade later, 2014, five LGBTQ+ couples challenged this ban in court, but Hamby v. Parnell was ultimately dismissed because of the Obergefell precedent.

But if Obergefell v. Hodges falls, my marriage would instantly be undone. This would create chaos. What would happen to the home we purchased together? What would happen to my husband and son’s military health insurance? What would happen to our child’s birth certificate?

It is with these questions in mind that I decided to run for the Alaska State House. I will become the first openly gay man to serve in the Alaska legislature if elected. The timing is critical. Alaska needs a representative who can genuinely represent the devastation our constitutional amendment would have on families like mine. But as it stands, Alaska is one of four U.S. states with zero LGBTQ+ state lawmakers, despite the vibrant LGBTQ+ community I am a part of.

I love Alaska for many reasons — our beautiful nature, the rich 17,000 year-history of the Alaska Native peoples, and our independent spirit — but most of all, I love the friendly camaraderie that ensures we always help our neighbors. This willingness to aid anyone and everyone, anywhere, enables us to thrive in the far north. I know in my heart that most Alaskans do not want to destroy my family. I am confident that the 1998 Alaska Marriage Amendment would never pass today, and I promise that I will stand firm in Juneau to ensure that marriage equality remains the law of the land in our great state.

It’s time to protect same-sex marriage once and for all because I, for one, am not going to wait to see whether Clarence Thomas thinks we deserve basic human rights. And the first step to protecting marriage equality in Alaska? Elect LGBTQ+ people to the state legislature.

Andrew Gray is the Democratic candidate for Alaska State House District 20 in Anchorage.

Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, Equal Pride.

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