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Disparaging remarks about gays won't kill Palin's AG pick

JUNEAU — Legislators questioned Gov. Sarah Palin's appointee for attorney general, Wayne Anthony Ross, on Friday about his calling gays "degenerates," and heard Ross fire back against a claim he made offensive comments about women.

Most members of the House Judiciary Committee seemed pleased with Ross after hearing his testimony.

"I will look forward to voting yes for you on the floor. I think you are a very fascinating, interesting, decent man and I look forward to having the opportunity to know you," the committee chair, Fairbanks Republican Rep. Jay Ramras, told Ross.

There are controversies around Ross, but none appear to be sticking to him enough to jeopardize his confirmation when the Legislature votes on him Thursday. Republican legislators in particular like his advocacy of gun rights and state's rights and his repeated statements about his love and passion for Alaska. He has not outlined any major new directions for the Department of Law, saying he's too new to it, and that his personal beliefs won't affect how he does the job.

Legislators talked about an explosive letter they received from Leah Burton, who used to lobby in Alaska on family and children's issues. Burton says in the letter that she heard Ross make offensive comments at a 1991 meeting in Anchorage of a group called Dads Against Discrimination. Burton's letter said that, as she was eavesdropping on the meeting at a Denny's restaurant, she heard Ross say, "If a guy can't rape his wife ... who's he gonna rape?" and "There wouldn't be an issue with domestic violence if women would learn to keep their mouth shut."

Palmer Republican Rep. Carl Gatto, a Ross supporter who said that he's being contacted by many people about Burton's claim, asked Ross to respond to it.

Ross said it's a lie.

"That's an insult not only to me, but it's an insult to my wife because my wife would never put up with anybody that believes that kind of stuff, and I don't like people insulting my wife," Ross said.

Ross added that "anybody said that to me, we'd have a little confrontation because that's a bunch of crap."

Gatto said he gave the letter no credibility, and there is no proof that Ross said those things. Burton is also the author of an anti-Palin book, "TheoPalinism -- The Face of Failed Extremism," written during the presidential campaign last fall.

Burton herself testified before the House judiciary committee by telephone Friday night. "When you hear egregious remarks like this it is so disturbing, I don't care how many years go by, you don't forget," Burton said.

Ramras told Burton that Ross is likely to be confirmed as attorney general next week.

"So if what you say happened is true, let's hope that he's grown considerably since then and brings a broader, more mature, more balanced perspective to the position he has now," Ramras said. "He seems like an honest man, he seems like a thoughtful man -- 15, 16 years, a lot of things, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then."

Legislators also questioned Ross about statements that he made in writing about gays in 1993. Ross used words like "immoral," "degenerates," and "perversion" in a letter to the state bar association during a fight over gay rights.

"I know that letter was upsetting to me and upsetting to my constituents," Anchorage Democratic Rep. Lindsey Holmes told him. "Do you stand by your characterizations in that letter?"

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