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Gov. Palin rejects Coming Out Day
Gov. Palin rejects Coming Out Day
by Mike Andrew - SGN Contributing Writer

Alaskans Together for Equality, the main LGBT rights organization in the state of Alaska, announced Thursday that Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin declined to issue a proclamation honoring National Coming Out Day, October 11.

Tim Stallard, vice president and spokesperson for Alaskans Together, told SGN that his group had asked Gov. Palin's Constituent Relations Office for an explanation, but none was offered. An e-mail from Gov. Palin's Coordinator for Constituent Relations Jessalyn Rintala said merely "Thank you for requesting a proclamation designating October 11 as National Coming Out Day. Unfortunately, your request cannot be granted at this time."

Contacted by SGN, Gov. Palin's office declined to comment "at this time." The governor's office did not indicate when comments might be forthcoming. McCain campaign spokesperson Rick Gorka did not reply to SGN's voicemail by press time.

In their media release, Alaskans Together President Marsha Buck referred to Palin's performance in the vice presidential debate last week. "Gov. Palin called for 'tolerance,' and we hoped that she'd show that type of leadership with this proclamation. Coming out is difficult and deserves recognition."

"We were asking for the governor to acknowledge and recognize the dignity of openly Gay Alaskans," Buck continued. "We weren't asking for a policy position, beyond simple acknowledgement."

According to Alaskans Together, so far this month Gov. Plain has issued proclamations for Careers in Construction Week, 10th Annual Christian Heritage Week, Biomedical Technician Week, Alaska-Taiwan Friendship Week, World Farm Animals Day, Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and Grand Opening of Rilke Schule Day.

Alaskans Together is asking supporters to call Gov. Palin's office at 907-465-3500 and express their disappointment at her lack of recognition for the LGBT community. "I'm not sure she made this decision herself," Stallard said. "We'll present the proclamation again, and if she's back in Alaska next year maybe she'll sign it then."

"Palin doesn't have much of a record one way or the other on Gay issues," according to Stallard. "She came into office right in the middle of the domestic partnership controversy, and she spoke against the benefits, but she didn't veto the legislation and she had to implement it because of the State Supreme Court ruling, so I guess she could have been worse."

"Activists in Alaska have a lot on our plate," Stallard said. "Our biggest challenge is finding enough volunteers, but I guess that's true for everybody. Sharing experience and expertise with people from other areas would be very helpful. And of course, financial support. We're beginning to develop a relationship with the Pride Foundation, and we think that will be very helpful."

Founded in 2007 to fight an advisory ballot measure recommending repeal of court-ordered domestic partnership benefits for state employees, Alaskans Together is now reorganizing as a permanent non-partisan non-profit political organization to promote civil equality for LGBT Alaskans.

The 2007 measure passed, but with only 53% of the voters in favor, far less than the 70% predicted by its supporters. Since it was an advisory measure only, it had no binding legal effect and Alaska state employees retain their domestic partnership benefits. Anti-Gay forces had introduced it because they lacked the necessary two-thirds majority in the Alaska State Legislature to amend the state constitution and reverse the State Supreme Court's decision.

"Alaska's LGBT community tends to be concentrated in the main cities - Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau - and also in some Native communities, but the old saying 'we are everywhere' is definitely true of Alaska," Stallard says.

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