This week read about LGBT couples receiving state benefits after years of discrimination in Alaska, and students protesting against the university's anti-LGBT policies in Washington.
LGBT Couples Receive Benefits After Years of Discrimination
For years, LGBT couples were left out of annual state benefits, even after the state’s definition of marriage was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2014, and the Supreme Court the following year. Now, the state has been ordered to issue equal payouts to same-sex couples.
In 2019, the Permanent Fund Dividend Division told military spouse Denali Smith she wasn’t able to receive an oil wealth check that is distributed to nearly all Alaskan residents because same-sex unions were not recognized by the state.
Attorney Caitlin Shortell, who represented Smith and three other clients who were also denied benefits, told Anchorage Daily News, “We are pleased to have come to an agreement that the state of Alaska will follow the orders of the federal court and U.S. Supreme Court.”
The state signed an agreement that it won’t use an unconstitutional definition of marriage to “deny same-sex accompanying spouses and dependents their PFDs in the future.”
Students Protest University’s Anti-LGBT Policies
Photo via Seattle Pacific University, Facebook.
Students at Seattle Pacific University have come together to protest the school’s policies that bar professors from being in same-sex unions.
When adjunct professor Jéaux Rinedahl was denied a full-time position with the private university’s nursing department in January, he filed a discrimination lawsuit, claiming it was because he is gay. The SPU Board of Trustees recently voted to uphold the university’s employee conduct policy, which defines marriage as “intended between a man and a woman.”
SPU junior Laur Lugos protested alongside his classmates and faculty members on campus, and told KING 5 News, “I'm embarrassed to say that I go to school here when I hear how the school treats the LGBTQ community."
Over 1,200 students, faculty, staff, alumni, and donors have signed a joint letter of lament, penned by SPU faculty and staff. The letter requests that the board remove the references to sexuality from the employee conduct guide, and amend the university’s non-discrimination language to protect employees on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation, and marital status.