Update June 16th 8:50 P.M. Alaska time: There is now a third version of this ordinance. Assembly chair Debbie Ossiander has introduced her re-write of Ordinance 64. It is designated AO 2009-64(S-1), and can be viewed HERE. Changes are in boldface.
The Alaska Family Council has issued an official statement decrying the Anchorage Assembly's proposed ordinance, AO NO. 2009-64, which would mandate "non-discrimination" against gays. The ordinance, would also mandate non-discrimination against honorably-discharged military veterans as well, leading a growing number of community members to believe that the crafters of the legislation are using veterans as a Trojan horse to advance the gay agenda.
Because the Alaska Family Council has chosed to issue it as a Microsoft Word document (.doc file), and not everyone may have Microsoft Word, I am cross-posting the entire statement here (if you don't have Word but you have Works, you should be able to configure your system to recognize and open it as a Works document ((.wps file)); I was able to do this using the Firefox browser):
Anchorage Assembly Ordinance Poses Real Threat to Religious Liberties
By Jim Minnery – President - Alaska Family Council – May 15, 2009
Earlier this week, an ordinance was introduced to the Anchorage Assembly that would prevent landlords, employers, educational institutions, public facility owners and those making loans from discriminating against anyone based upon their "sexual orientation."
Sexual orientation, according to the ordinance, means "actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or gender expression or identity." In case you're confused, "gender expression or identity" means "having or being perceived as having a self-image, appearance, or behavior different from that traditionally associated with the sex assigned to that person at birth."
Before we get into some of the details as to why the Alaska Family Council is adamantly opposed to this ordinance, please mark your calendar NOW for the public hearing taking place on Tuesday, June 9th at the Anchorage Loussac Library. It is extremely important that we get as many concerned citizens at this meeting as possible because it is an absolute certainty that the gay and lesbian community and their allies will be out in force at this meeting. Please put aside a few hours if you can and make sure to get there as close to 5:00pm as possible. The place will fill up and it will be a very lively discussion!
We are in the process of developing a detailed, action oriented link on our website regarding this issue but to summarize a few of the key points...
**POINT #1 - Anchorage citizens should oppose this ordinance because it simply does not protect the rights of individuals to manage their properties, businesses and lives consistent with their deeply held religious convictions. To illustrate the point, click here to read a remarkable, brief story about a Christian photographer in New Mexico who was sued for refusing to photograph a lesbian couple's "commitment ceremony." She was found guilty and was asked by the state's Human Rights Commission to pay nearly $7,000 for the lesbian couple's attorney fees.
I think it's very safe to assume that the vast majority of the photography businesses in New Mexico would have had no problems working with the lesbian couple. This wasn't about the couple not being able to find a willing service provider. It was about the gay and lesbian community, as well as the New Mexico government, finding it intolerable that there are some photographers who won't do it based on their deeply held personal beliefs.
The ordinance introduced right here in Anchorage would set up an identical scenario whereby you would be breaking the law if you felt that renting your condo to a crossdresser was incompatible with your personal beliefs.
**POINT # 2 - The religious exemption provided in the ordinance is absolutely too narrow and would needlessly entangle the government and the courts in determining who is a "bona fide" member of a particular religion or denomination. Here is what the religious exemption says -
"It shall be lawful for a bona fide religious or denominational institution, organization, corporation, association, educational institution, or society, to limit, select or give preferential treatment in employment, admissions, accommodations, advantages, facilities, benefits, or services, to persons of the same religion or denomination, that is reasonably calculated to promote the religious principles for which it is established or maintained. Such organizations otherwise remain subject to the other provisions in this title with regard to race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, marital status, age, or physical or mental disability."
Who do you suppose is going to determine just what a "bona fide" religious group is ? What kind of "reasonable calculation" is going to be made on whether a staff position is truly "promoting the religious principles for which it is established?" Suppose a bus driver or a janitor at a church or Christian school decides to "out" themselves as a homosexual ? The government will end up having to determine whether or not those positions are "promoting the religious principles" of the church or school and may very well end up preventing the group from dismissing the person based on their sexual orientation.
I was recently on the Eddie Burke Radio program discussing/debating this ordinance with Jeffrey Mittman, the Executive Director of the Alaska ACLU, and he actually ended up agreeing with me on air that the religious exemption in the ordinance is too narrowly defined and would infringe upon the rights of religious organizations.
As I told Mr. Mittman, the language of the ordinance creates an environment where the government and the courts would actually have to determine if someone really was or was not a true member of the religion or denomination. If that same janitor or bus driver makes a convincing case that they are in fact a "bona fide" member of the religion or denomination, the church or Christian school would be unable to let them go based on their sexual orientation.
**POINT #3 - Finally, this ordinance should be opposed because it is not based on any established need in the community. There has not been any evidence presented of gays and lesbians being systematically denied housing, loans or employment in the Municipality of Anchorage based on their sexual orientation. As the Christian photographer case in New Mexico so clearly demonstrates, this is about targeting community members who want to simply live by their own beliefs.
As the Alliance Defense Fund Senior Counsel for the photographer case noted, "Christians in the marketplace should not be penalized for abiding by their beliefs anymore than anyone else should. The Constitution prohibits the state from forcing unwilling people to promote a message they disagree with and thereby violate their conscience."
As this community discussion heats up, please pray for wisdom, clarity and an ability to speak the Truth with love and grace. Do your part to get educated on this issue and stay tuned for more action items and information from the Alaska Family Council.
Click HERE for a list of Anchorage Assembly members to contact about this ordinance.
Here's my take on where the Assembly members may stand on this issue.
Assembly members likely to support the ordinance:
-- Patrick Flynn (the sponsor)
-- Sheila Selkregg
-- Harriet Drummond
-- Mike Gutierrez
-- Elvi Gray-Jackson
Assembly members whose stance cannot be reliably predicted at this point:
-- Dan Coffey
Assembly members likely to oppose the ordinance:
-- Debbie Ossiander
-- Bill Starr
-- Chris Birch
-- Jennifer Johnston
Acting Mayor Matt Claman, who remains in office until July 1st, has said that if AO NO. 2009-64 is passed while he's in office, he will NOT veto it. Mayor-elect Dan Sullivan has not yet weighed in, stating that he wants to study the ordinance further. However, Sullivan is a Roman Catholic who is a known conservative.
One of the most important parts of the Council's statement is the counsel to "speak the truth with love and grace". We need to avoid directing any abuse towards the gay community itself. And while we need to be firm with Assembly members, we need to remain civil towards them as well. But most importantly, we need to consider showing up on June 9th. People like Jim Minnery, Pastor Jerry Prevo, and Dan Fagan have placed themselves at the forefront of opposition to this ordinance, and we cannot allow them to be out there isolated by themselves. Show up and speak up on June 9th. And if you decide to make some picket signs to bring down to the Loussac Library, make sure the signs are legible and in GOOD TASTE. Black block letters on white background work best. There's no room for any of this "God Hates Fags" rubbish! Besides, people of faith know that God does NOT hate sinners, only sins.