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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Washington State Got Marriage Equality This Week—But Anchorage Doesn't Even Have Basic Civil Rights Protections for LGBT People

Posted by 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organized the opposition, ran haters against the assemblymembers who had approved the law, and Prevo's new Assembly repealed the Equal Rights Ordinance.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.

Help out if you can.


Comments (28) RSS

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Led. LED the opposition
Posted by Reader01 on February 9, 2012 at 11:04 AM · Report this
Happy to. The UAA students seem pretty happy to be hosting your show tonight. Break a leg!
Posted by gloomy gus on February 9, 2012 at 11:08 AM · Report this
Thanks for posting Dan!
Posted by thanks! on February 9, 2012 at 11:14 AM · Report this
Karlheinz Arschbomber 4
These are the people who elected you-know-who to be Governor. And Senator innernet-toobs. You expect better? Anyway, I hope justice finally prevails.
Posted by Karlheinz Arschbomber on February 9, 2012 at 11:24 AM · Report this
Done. Good luck to them.
Posted by LMcGuff on February 9, 2012 at 11:27 AM · Report this
djwudi 6
I set up my page. Any of you thinking of donating, feel free to go through my page so I'm not the only one pushing that thermometer up!
Posted by djwudi on February 9, 2012 at 11:30 AM · Report this
When I was a teenager in Fairbanks in the 88-90's era, you didn't even TALK about gay people. There were no out gays in our town. There were guys and ladies we knew were gay, but it was some pretty on the DL shit. That anchorage is this way is not surprising. Alaska sometimes makes kentucky look positively genteel.
Posted by LORD ZOD on February 9, 2012 at 11:32 AM · Report this
One of my favorite parts of going to Alaska is the airport in Anchorage: named for a Senator who died in a plane crash. Ha! Anyway, my $ are on the way north.
Posted by avatar on February 9, 2012 at 11:34 AM · Report this
I will be voting yes on Prop 5 in April. I also donated to One Anchorage.

I am sick of Prevo and Sullivan and their Republican cronies.

See ya tonight, Dan.
Posted by AKTheresa on February 9, 2012 at 11:36 AM · Report this
I would have loved to donate, but alas it would appear that us foreign types are not allowed to. Hope you get what you need, Alaskans!
Posted by teamcanada on February 9, 2012 at 11:42 AM · Report this
Donated. I finally have a job (two, actually). I finally have an income. What I don't have are excuses. Good luck, Anchorage! Enjoy my New Jersey dollars and remember, that phone number is fake. Yeah, yeah, you wouldn't ever have called me? HEARD IT BEFORE.
Posted by DRF on February 9, 2012 at 12:37 PM · Report this
merry 12
Wow, thanks for this Dan. I didn't realize it was this bad.. Donation on the way!

I also didn't realize that that snake-oil salesman, Prevo, is still alive and spreading his filthy hate. Makes me recall the old 70's rallying cry:


Posted by merry on February 9, 2012 at 12:48 PM · Report this
Done. Thanks for bringing this to our attention Dan.
Posted by Justin on February 9, 2012 at 12:55 PM · Report this
saxfanatic 14
I went to the site that @6 set up and was heartened to see that the contribution form did indeed accept addresses from good ol' ON (i.e. Ontari-ari-ari-o: "A place to stand! A place to grow!")

Alas, the fine print stipulated that the contributor must have a permanent US residence.
Posted by saxfanatic on February 9, 2012 at 1:30 PM · Report this
Baby Blue 15
DONE! We're planning to move to AK in 2014 and I'd like it to be a friendlier state when we get there.
Posted by Baby Blue on February 9, 2012 at 2:13 PM · Report this
Donated! The stupid, it hurts, but donating seems to take a bit of the pain away.
Posted by Evn on February 9, 2012 at 3:43 PM · Report this
at least I get to imagine it's painful for bigot-mayor to have a name that's composed of probably the two most prominent gay rights activists in the US.
Posted by adam.smith on February 9, 2012 at 3:44 PM · Report this
Why can't people in Canada (or the UK, or elsewhere) go through friends in the States? The money is what counts, not the name of the donor.
Posted by kait on February 9, 2012 at 3:52 PM · Report this
Dan, Thanks for putting out the word. I try to fight the local fight (going to the school board for anti-bullying language, founded a PFLAG chapter, got inclusive langauge for utility employees) 160 road miles to the south, but will be at UAA in Anchorage tomorrow.

It was striking to me in 1998 that three things on ballot - wolf snaring, billboard ban (never legal in AK, but this expanded the ban and raised penalties), and a state DOMA initiatve - were decided 70-30 which is HUGE in any election. Gays were as unpopular as wolves and billboards! But haters keep dying and young people are more accepting, albeit a few years behind any other Pacific-Coast state.
Posted by DAVIDinKENAI on February 9, 2012 at 4:01 PM · Report this
@15 (Baby Blue): There is a big fundie presence in Alaska. And in small rural towns, fewer people know of their gay coworkers and neighbors, but I found that there was more civility between disparate peoples (Dems-Reps, Treehuggers-Hook&Bullet Crowd, the Jews meet at the Catholic church, etc) which I think is a small-state, small-city, and extreme-climate thing. Many people react to the trans radio announcer like they react to me (a guy without a gun or a truck!) and think, "Whatever." and go on with cutting firewood, gutting a moose, or slaying fish.

Also, the progressive community is of necessity very incestuous - you see the same people at the Arts Council as at PFLAG, UU, community theater, community orchestra, etc. We were better connected to people and events in 6 months than we had been in 3 years in Seattle or 5 generations in SF.

It is the only place I've seen an NRA sticker on a Prius (the irony was one of his reasons he got the car).

Northern Exposure was not a sitcom. It was a documentary. The best worker on my house lives in a treehouse. YEAR ROUND! My doctor runs the Iditarod. The last Borough Mayor was a screaming closet case. Local kids win international competitions. Etc.
Posted by DAVIDinKENAI on February 9, 2012 at 4:25 PM · Report this
Yes, Alaska, and especially Anchorage is an odd place to live. Incredibly fundy and conservative. (Here I'm a raging liberal, but when I lived in Eugene, Oregon, I was considered moderate.) But, due to the fact that Anchorage is very multicultural and the whole "frontier" mentality, people do tend to be friendly to those of other cultures and races. However, homosexuality is still considered a no-no here by many, and particularly the strong fundy element. (My family being some of them. It's hard to be the only liberal in a fundy family.)

I can't donate (no income), but will be voting for the proposition. And if it doesn't pass, will somebody please, please, PLEASE buy a small apartment building here in Anchorage and openly discriminate against heteros? I'm not sure some people will understand until the shoe is on the other foot, and I have always thought that would be a good way to demonstrate why not including sexual orientation or gender identity in anti-discrimination laws is prejudicial and wrong.
Posted by SherBee on February 9, 2012 at 4:50 PM · Report this
Anchorage and the greater state of alaska doesn't have any rights for lgbt folks because they have failed to invest in the most political organizing efforts for 35 years. As a part time resident of both Alaska and California, I can tell you that it's still an all boys club up there even if its gay all boys club who have effectively cockedblocked all political organizing.
I predict that if this ordinance does pass, there will be the usual back lash and the goo ol gay boys won't have the political muscle to stop it.
Posted by unflappable on February 9, 2012 at 5:50 PM · Report this
I have an idea to undermine the signature collectors against marriage equality in WA. Thousands of LGBT citizens should request a signature petition and just recycle it instead of collecting signatures.
Posted by Dan2469 on February 9, 2012 at 9:34 PM · Report this
Done! And these $35 come from the Netherlands (well, not exactly... I still have an American bank account for this kind of thing. But the money I have on that account did come from my work here, so there you are.)

Let's hope for the best. Anti-gay discrimination is ultimately going to disappear from the mainstream.
Posted by ankylosaur on February 10, 2012 at 2:22 AM · Report this
Done. I'm retired and living on Social Security now, but this is important enough that I can rearrange my budget for this month to cover that $35.
Posted by PaulBarwick on February 10, 2012 at 6:10 AM · Report this
The language of the initiative includes a massive carveout for religious organizations and churches.

why? when's the last time the other side bent over backwards to be nice? why accomodate them? stop being such pussies.
Posted by Moonmaid on February 10, 2012 at 1:30 PM · Report this
@26, I suspect that's to increase the chance that the initiative will actually have enough votes to be approved.
Posted by ankylosaur on February 10, 2012 at 2:22 PM · Report this
I cast the eighth vote in 1993 to override the veto by Mayor Fink granting equal rights protection to Anchorage municipal employees by amending the Anchorage Equal Rights Ordinance. The same religious hatemongers fighting Initiative 5 made sure I didn't get elected to the Anchorage Assembly in the next election. After electing fellow hatemongers to the Assembly they were able to repeal the equal rights protections. I hope on April 3 Anchorage voters will courageously stand up to the Baptist Temple and do what is right by passing Initiative 5 to advance equal rights for all people in Anchorage.
Posted by yellowdogd on February 18, 2012 at 10:52 PM · Report this

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