It’s official: Anchorage Equal Rights Initiative certified for April 2012 ballot
by Melissa S. Green
It’s official: the Anchorage Equal Rights Initiative will appear on ballot for the April 3, 2012 Anchorage municipal election. One Anchorage, the group spearheading the initiative, received an email yesterday addressed to One Anchorage campaign chairs Arliss Sturgulewski and Gov. Tony Knowles:
Dear Ms. Sturgulewski and Gov. Knowles,
The initiative petition you submitted to my office on September 1, 2011 to provide legal protections against discrimination to include protections on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender identity has been reviewed.
The results are that a sufficient number of signatures of registered voters were found to place the question before the voters of Anchorage. The question posed by the initiative will appear on the ballot at the April 3, 2012 regular Municipal election.
Barbara E. Gruenstein
The One Anchorage campaign was launched on September 1 of this year when the application for the initiative was submitted to the municipal clerk’s office. After the initiative language had been approved, the campaign had 90 days to gather the minimum number of 5,871 signatures necessary to put the measure on the ballot. Last week, on December 8, the campaign turned in 13,515 signatures — over twice the minimum needed. The Anchorage Daily News reported last night that the clerk’s office had verified more than 6,000 by yesterday afternoon.
The question to appear on the ballot will read:
Shall the current Municipal Code sections providing legal protections against discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, age, physical disability, and mental disability be amended to include protections on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender identity?
The full application for the ballot initiative (in PDF format) includes the petition language and the changes that will be applied, if the ballot measure wins, to Title 5 of the Anchorage Municipal Code. The measure will add sexual orientation and transgender identity to the list of personal characteristics already included in Title 5 on the basis which it is prohibited to discriminate in employment, housing, financial practices, education, and practices of the Municipality of Anchorage.[/caption]
The antigay, anti-trans Alaska Family Council has indicated that it will campaign against the Anchorage Equal Rights Initiative. Alaska Family Council was a prominent opponent of the Anchorage equal rights ordinance AO-64 in 2009, printing most of the red and white signs carried by ordinance opponents outside the Anchorage Assembly chambers during the long summer of public testimony. AO-64 ultimately passed the Anchorage Assembly on August 11, 2009 by a vote of 7–4, only to be vetoed 6 days later by Mayor Dan Sullivan.
Alaska Family Council president Jim Minnery claimed to the Anchorage Daily News last week:
It’s not clear that there is any widespread discrimination against the gay community. What is clearer is that this is a true threat to religious liberties.
Minnery’s claims ignore findings of the Anchorage LGBT Discrimination Survey, whose preliminary findings were released last month. Of the 268 gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender respondents to that survey, 44 percent reported being harassed by employers or coworkers because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and nearly 15 percent said they were fired because of sexual orientation or gender identity. Over 18 percent of respondents reported being harassed by a landlord or other tenants, and 8.2 percent said they were evicted because of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The argument that providing equal protection under the law from discrimination to LGBT people somehow violates freedom of religion is one Minnery has used before, and is being used with increasing frequency by anti-LGBT activists around the country, who find themselves increasingly in the minority in public opinion polls on issues affecting LGBT equality. As stated by Truth Wins Out, a non-profit organization that fights anti-gay religious extremism,
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="263" caption="Rev. Michael Burke of St. Mary's Episcopal Church demonstrating in support of the Anchorage equal rights ordinance A0-64 on June 17, 2009."][/caption]
[Anti-gay activists] now try to pose as martyrs whose beliefs give them the special right to discriminate and ignore the law.
In contrast, Christians for Equality, a group of Anchorage-area ministerial leaders, has formed in support of the Anchorage Equal Rights Initiative. As stated last week by Rev. Michael Burke of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church,
Equality is a core value of our Christian faith…. That’s why we firmly support the One Anchorage initiative, because it calls for equal treatment of one another and protects those in our community who have no legal rights against discrimination today.
Rev. Burke is scheduled to appear on Shannyn Moore’s “Moore Up North” show to be taped tonight from 6:00 to 7:00 PM at the Tap Root at 3300 Spenard Road in Anchorage (see map). The show will be broadcast on Saturday and Sunday (December 17 and 18) at 3:00 PM on KYUR Channel 13.Tags: Alaska Family Council, Anchorage equal rights ordinance AO-64 (2009), Anchorage municipal election 2012, ballot initiative, Christians for Equality (Anchorage), Elections 2012, One Anchorage, Proposition 5 Anchorage Equal Rights Initiative (2011-2012), Rev. Michael Burke