At Large / LGBTQITSLFA
Washington State Got Marriage Equality This Week—But Anchorage Doesn't Even Have Basic Civil Rights Protections for LGBT People
by Dan Savage
on Thu, Feb 9, 2012 at 10:56 AM
Thirty-five years—that's how long they've been fighting for basic civil rights protections up here in Anchorage, Alaska.
The city and county governments of Anchorage combined into one body in 1976—the Municipality of Anchorage—and the new Assembly put together an equal rights ordinance that covered race, sex, religion, marital status, and "sexual preference." Anchorage's 11-member Assembly approved the new Equal Rights Ordinance unanimously. Then Dr. Jerry Prevo, pastor of the Anchorage Baptist Temple, organized a campaign to pressured the mayor into deleting the protections for sexual preference from the ordinance. Prevo then went after the assemblymembers and managed to scare enough off that there weren't enough votes to override the mayor and restore "sexual preference" to Anchorage's Equal Rights Ordinance.
In 1992/1993 the city tried again—but this time the Equal Rights Ordinance only covered municipal employees. It was approved by the Assembly and signed into law by the mayor. But Jerry Prevo organized the opposition, ran haters against the assemblymembers who had approved the law, and Prevo's new Assembly repealed the Equal Rights Ordinance.
In 2009 the city tried again: Ordinance 64—an equal rights bill that covered "sexual orientation" and "gender identity and expression"—was taken up by the Anchorage Assembly. Dr. Jerry Prevo once again led the opposition, this time with a reach-around from Jim Minnery of the Alaska Family Council. Anchorage's acting mayor had pledged to sign the bill into law so the Prevo and Minnery did all they could to delay passage. They bused people to Anchorage from Wasilla—remember Wasilla?—and from bible camps outside of Anchorage to testify against the bill, drawing testimony out for weeks. The anti folks testified that they would never hire or rent to gays or lesbians and then turned around and argued that there was no need for the law because gays and lesbians aren't discriminated against.
The Assembly approved Ordinance 64 by a 7-4 vote. But Prevo and Minnery had successfully run out the clock: Anchorage had a new mayor—Dan Sullivan—and he vetoed the Ordinance 64. The Assembly didn't have the eight votes needed to override the mayor's veto.
The LGBT community in Anchorage—sick of waiting for basic civil rights protections—decided to put an equal rights initiative on the ballot. One Anchorage needed to gather 5,871 signatures to qualify; they quickly gathered 13,600 signatures. Voters in Anchorage will say "yes" or "no" to Proposition 5 on April 3. The mayor and city council don't have the power to veto or rescind a voter-approved initiative. So voters here approve Prop 5, Anchorage will finally—after 35 years—have an equal rights law that protects LGBT citizens.
One Anchorage reps say that the polling numbers look good and that this has a real chance of passage. The language of the initiative includes a massive carveout for religious organizations and churches. If a church wanted to fire a janitor who was gay, the law wouldn't prevent that church from firing their cocksucking janitor. But the religious bigots—Prevo and Minnery—are arguing that this special right to discriminate against LGBT people doesn't go far enough. (And it is a special right: religious groups and individuals in Anchorage are not allowed to discriminate against women, racial minorities, Jewish people, the disabled, the elderly, etc., etc., even if they believe—sincerely! religiously!—that women shouldn't work outside the home, people be allowed to marry outside their race, the Jews are going to hell, etc., etc.)
One Anchorage reps are bracing themselves for the inevitable fear-mongering that will target trans people and the trans-inclusive language in their initiative. When similar initiatives were on the ballot in in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Gainesville, Florida, the haters ran television ads at the last minute that showed men following little girls into public restrooms and distributed flyers with pictures of men in dresses that said the law would "require" schools to hire these men to teach your children. Those ads are coming to Anchorage.
Voters in Kalamazoo and Gainesville extended civil rights protections to their LGBT citizens because the pro-gay campaigns in those cities were able to get on TV with ads calling bullshit on the haters and refuting their lies.
To combat the inevitable, last-minute anti-gay/anti-trans hate campaign, One Anchorage is raising money to get television ads on the air up here in the last weeks of the campaign. They're asking people to consider donating $35—one dollar for each year that Anchorage has been fighting for equality and basic civil rights protections. (There are no limits on campaign donations for initiatives up here, so if you're moved to donate $350 or $3500 or $3,500,000, please don't hesitate.) There's also the 35/35/35 Club: Ask 35 friends to donate $35 each. You can set up your own page at One Anchorage and you'll get a fundraising thermometer of your very own!
We scored major victories in California and Washington state this week. But the LGBT community in Anchorage is still struggling to achieve the most basic civil rights protections. The LGBT community in Alaska needs this victory—Alaska is the only state on the nation that has never had an openly gay elected official, there are no state-wide laws that protect LGBT people, there is no anti-LGBT hate-crimes legislation up here, there are no domestic-partnership registries of any kind anywhere in the state. The LGBT community up here needs this victory and they need our support.