by Rep. Bryce Edgmon
Many of you are probably already aware that the House took a historic step on Thursday in censuring Representative David Eastman (R-Wasilla). I owe it to my constituents to say something about why I believed such a serious action was necessary.
First, I want to make it clear that a censure is not censorship. It does not curtail any-one’s right to free speech. To censure someone, in a legislative context, is to formally condemn wrong and irresponsible conduct that brings dishonor and indignity to the whole institution.
Recent behavior by Rep. Eastman was just that. There was broad agreement in the House that the statements and insinuations Rep. Eastman repeated were false and offensive. They insulted the dignity and integrity of Alaska Native women and all Alaska women and offended the moral sense of all principled Alaskans.
I did not come to my decision to support censuring Rep. Eastman all at once. He was given many opportunities to apologize for his statements. However, rather than show even a small sign of sincere remorse, he instead used those opportunities to reiterate his appalling allegations in media interviews and even on the House floor.
As I watched Rep. Eastman continue making groundless and degrading comments against Alaska Native women, I thought about my Aleut heritage and about my daughters and what I might explain to them about abuse towards women. I also thought about my legacy as the first Alaska Native Speaker, and the responsibility I feel to promote increased tolerance and mutual respect among the diverse people living in the state.
In the end, unfortunately, my decision was easy. Such reprehensible conduct had to be answered with serious consequences, and if we set a historical precedent in the House in doing so, then so be it. This is the 21st Century, and the times in which people had to stomach such cruel and intolerant behavior should be forever in Alaska’s past.
Rep. Bryce Edgmon serves as Speaker of the House for the Alaska State Legislature.