An Alaskan journalist's perspective on local and national issues

Posts tagged ‘Ordinance 64’

Panel discussion on Prop. 5 at UAA shows voter failure

There was a panel discussion about Proposition 5 at UAA tonight.  For the few Anchorage residents who don’t know, there is an issue that is up for a vote on April 3rd.  It is to extend the Title 5 protections, Sections 1-8, to include sexual orientation as a protected status when seeking employment or residence.

Like Ordinance 64, this issue is generating a great deal of criticism from the Christian-right.  The organizations leading the “Protect your Rights” (the opposition) effort are the Alaska Family Council and Focus on the Family.  One Anchorage is heading up the efforts in support of this proposition.

The attendence to this panel discussion was beyond dismal.  There were 23 people in total.  There was nobody from the opposition, including as one of the speakers.  it seems the speaker against it was going to be Daniel MacDonald.  There were two speakers in support, Brett Frazer, and a man named Blake.  MacDonald was all the only opposition, because Jim Minnery, the President of Alaska Family Council, could not find a student to represent the AFC.

Frazer opened by saying that he had a family member (whose name he withheld for privacy reasons) who had been in the military, and was finally able to come out with the veto of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  However, even with that, she was still discriminated against, both at work and in her daily life.  Her partner feared daily if it ever got out that she was a partner to another woman.  There was a rather appropriate quote by Frazer –

“Discrimination is still very real in Anchorage.”

Next up there was the opening argument by Blake.  He had three points.  The first was that descrimination still exists.  When Mayor Dan Sullivan vetoed Ordinance 64, he remarked that discrimination no longer exists, which was his justification for doing so.  The second was that employees are being fired for being gay.  In some cases, a boss can look at your Facebook page and can use that as a way to find out who you are.  The third was that this wasn’t just hurting people’s livelihoods’, but also doing societal damage.

Since there was nobody to speak for the opposition, the floor opened up to questions.  The first was if a person could be sent to jail or fined because of Prop. 5.  Brett took this, and the answer was – only if they lied to investigators.  However, this had nothing to do with Prop. 5.

The next question was – if there was a case made for discrimination, where was the burden of proof?  Again, Brett took this.  The burden of proof is on the person making the claim.  And they only have a limited window to make it – 180 days.  There is a public hearing (which is an odd term, considering that they are private), which does not fit with the opposition’s narrative that there is no hearing, and the book gets immediately thrown at businesses.

The big question that has been fueling the opposition against Prop. 5 is – will this affect religious freedom?  The answer was obviously no.  Proposition 5 affects Title 5, sections 1-8, but not section 9.  Section 9 is in reference to religious institutions.  Only for-profit businesses will feel the brunt of this.  Of course, it was also brought up – what constitutes a religious institution?  What about religious campgrounds?  Brett and Blake acknowledged that there was some ambiguity in regards to that, but churches were guaranteed to not be affected.  However, Brett made a point that this ambiguity was not a reason to vote against it, but rather to lobby to have some work done on this law.

One point that Brett made was saying what Prop. 5 is not.  It is not, “equal rights for everybody.”  In fact, this does not give the LGBTQ community the same rights as everybody else.  Instead, it gets them 90% of the way there.  This is the best that the gay community could hope for.  That’s depressing enough in and of itself.

Since this was an incredibly fast discussion, because of the dismal attendence and there being no identifiable presence against Prop. 5, they moved on to the closing statements.  Brett said that he didn’t want to wake up on April 4th and find Anchorage the same place it was.  That this proposition needed to pass.

Blake then said that Title 5 works, and the oppositions scare tactics against this Proposition were simply unfounded.  There have been no massive imprisonments and fines.  This law works, and that Prop. 5 needed to be add sexual orientation to the groups of people who can’t be discriminated against.

And that’s it.  Quick, simple, and totally, totally pointless.  There was one attendee, a UAA student named Ceezar Martinson, who had the best thoughts about this.  This night was a complete waste of time for two reasons.  1. the turnout is pathetic.  This is a very clear indicator of how many people actually care about their democracy, and their future.  Even if you knew how you were going to vote, as Brett said, by being in that room, we were already more enlightened than those not in the room, because we were hearing about this issue, and good questions were being asked.

2. The opposition didn’t even care enough to show up.  Everybody seems so sure that this is going to pass.  Everybody I have talked to.  They seem to think that no significant number of people would vote against it.  But as was seen with Ordinance 64, the opposition to this is fierce, and there is a very good chance that this proposition will fail.  And when it does, the voters will have nobody to blame but themselves.  The opposition is real, and they are doing their damndest to make sure that their base is out there, voting against this.

So, if Proposition 5 fails, it will be because when there are people trying to reach out to the community and keep them informed, they don’t even bother to show up, or get the people they know who are confused to go and learn.  This is voter failure, and I am starting to not have sympathy for these people.

Peace out,

Lefty

The battle for gay rights in Anchorage begins anew

Well, an issue that polarized a community once has come back to bear here in Anchorage, Alaska.  For those who remember the battle for Ordinance 64 back in 2009, it was the single-largest gathering of open-mindedness and bigotry that Alaska had ever seen.  It brought people out of the woodwork on both sides, and battle of words was hot.  The signs were passionate, and the feelings were raw.  Now, with the signatures turned in, it is very likely that this issue is going to be on the April city elections ballot.

The rule is in Anchorage is that it is illegal to discriminate against a person when it comes to housing, hiring, and things like that because or race, gender, religion, or marital status.  The same cannot be said, however, for sexual orientation.  A person can lose their job just because they are gay.

If this initiative should get onto the ballot, and pass, then it will add sexual orientation to this list.  Why it wasn’t already on there is a complete mystery.  Mayor Dan Sullivan, back in 2009, came out firmly against this, and vetoed the decision as he promised he would.  Now that it is coming back, his office is just as opinionless as ever.

“Mayor Sullivan believes a ballot initiative is appropriate in that it allows  all citizens to weigh in on this subject.”

That particular line was from Sarah Erkmann, Mayor Sullivan’s spokeswoman.  Yes, so, now he believes that this is an important issue that is where everybody should weigh in on, but when it comes to him making the right choice, that was just too much to ask.

Now, while the religious groups of Anchorage got a bad rap last time, due to the biggest religious figure in town, Pastor Jerry Prevo, coming out against this, it seems that this run, there are religious people supporting the intiative.  The group is called Christians for Equality.  It includes a number of churches, such as St. Mary’s Episcopal, United Methodist, Immanuel Presbyterian and Joy Lutheran.  This is a good thing to see from the religious community of Anchorage.

However, where there are people of the faith community who want to do good, there are others who are not so fairness-minded.  If we all remember back in the debate about Ordinance 64, there were plenty of people out with signs talking about how their god wanted the descriminatory policies of the city to remain just like they were.  While they held up signs talking about how the LGBT community was pushing their beliefs, it was pretty clear who was doing the pushing.

And once again, the Alaska Family Council has come out and said that they are going to be opposing this initiative.  There was a statement that was made by the head of Jim Minnery, the president of the AFC.

“It’s not clear that there is any widespread discrimination against the gay  community,” he said. “What is clearer is that this is a true threat to  religious liberties.”

That’s a very interesting argument to make.  How exactly are there threats to religious liberties?  For real, there needs to be an answer to this.  Are the gays going to tell you that you can’t worship?  This is the same kind of ridiculous logic that is used by people like Rick Perry when they need to make themselves seem more legitimate about their presidency.  The fact is that there are not threats to religious liberties, and I challenge Minnery to prove me wrong.  What possible way could the LGBT community stop you and yours from going to church and worshiping your holy figure?  This kind of accusation deserves some very careful scrutiny.

The first point, about there not being any signs of widspread discrimination, well, that is easly countered by the signs above.  Yeah, not a bit of discrimination going on there.  Who knows where it’s coming from.

But whatever one’s opinion, it’s looking like the battle is going to get pretty heated, with the AFC and One Anchorage looking to trade blows, come April, if the 13,515 signatures they got gets this initiative on the ballot.  The tragic part is that since it is so much easier to mobilize the bigoted votes instead of the progessive ones, it is very possible that the initiative will be defeated by the same ridiculous and baseless logic that people like Minnery use.

Here’s a link to the AFC email, in case you want to throw a criticism or two their way – info@alaskafamilycouncil.org

The battle is looking very likely to be on.  Which side do you stand?

Peace out,

Lefty

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