Alaska Personnel Board Makes Gay Partners ’Family’
Same-sex partners of state employees will be considered as immediate family under action taken Thursday by the Alaska State Personnel Board.
The board adopted new wording in regulations that allows state employees to take leave due to a serious health condition involving a same-sex partner and include same-sex partners in the definition of immediate family for that purpose.
To be eligible, the rules state the same-sex partners must provide proof that they meet five of eight criteria, including such things as a joint mortgage or rental agreement, joint ownership of a vehicle or being named as the primary beneficiary in a partner’s will.
Same-sex marriage is barred under Alaska’s constitution. But the Alaska Supreme Court in 2005 found it is unconstitutional to offer valuable benefits to the spouses of public employees but not to same-sex domestic partners.
The three-member board unanimously adopted the language on leaves but split on the definition of a family. Members Debra English and Al Tamagni Sr. voted for the new definition, but Keith Hamilton opposed the change.
"I don’t believe ’immediate family’ includes this definition based on our state of Alaska’s definition prior, and I’m not comfortable with it," Hamilton said before the vote.
The rules go into effect Oct. 19.
Joshua Decker, interim director of the ACLU of Alaska, testified by phone. He thanked the board for the changes but thought some of the requirements for same-sex couples were onerous, especially since opposite-sex couples receive the benefit when one of them simply checks a box to say they are married.