On Aug. 29, presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain announced Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his pick for vice president.
The announcement was received with concern by the LGBT community and pro-choice advocates. Palin’s record as governor of the nation’s most northerly state and her record on such hot button issues as marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose will likely come into center stage among activist circles as she moves into campaigning before the general election.
On LGBT issues, advocates attacked Palin on her support of a 1998 constitutional amendment banning marriage between same-sex couples. However, Palin has stated she is receptive to concerns about discrimination and taken steps that some see as inclusive.
As governor, she complied with a state Supreme Court order to implement same-sex benefits for state government, signing them into law after the previous governor’s administration had failed to comply. Her first veto after taking office was of legislation that would have barred same-sex benefits for partners of gay state employees.
The Log Cabin Republicans called Palin a “mainstream Republican who will unite the Party and serve John McCain well as Vice President.” The group also said Palin is “an inclusive Republican who will help Sen. McCain appeal to gay and lesbian voters.”
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said the young governor had proven to be a “fierce opponent of equality,” despite her short political career.
“America may not know much about Sarah Palin, but based on what our community has seen of her, we know enough,” said Solmonese. “Sarah Palin not only supported the 1998 Alaska constitutional amendment banning marriage equality but, in her less than two years as Governor, even expressed the extreme position of supporting stripping away domestic partner benefits for state workers. When you can’t even support giving our community the rights to health insurance and pension benefits, it’s a frightening window into where she stands on equality.”
Palin is anti-choice and a member of Feminists for Life, as well as a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association.
Palin took office as governor in mid-2006 and has only 20 months of state-level executive experience. Prior to that, she served on the City Council of Wasilla, Alaska (near Anchorage) and as the city’s mayor. The town has a population under 10,000.
She also served on the Alaska Conservation Commission, which regulates oil and gas resources in the state and served as president of the Alaska Conference of Mayors.
She has a reputation as a political outsider and ran her 2006 gubernatorial campaign on a platform of clean government. Once in office, she has also focused on education, public safety and transportation.
Palin has been embroiled in a bitter controversy regarding her dismissal of Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan, who claims his termination was in retaliation for his decision not to fire Palin’s former brother-in-law, Alaska State Trooper Mark Wooten. The brother-in-law had been suspended from service in 2006 for ten days after a police inquiry found “a serious and concentrated patter of unacceptable and at times, illegal activity.”
Palin is 44 years old and has five children.
— Mark Segal of the Gay History Project contributed to this report.