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.
At their regularly-scheduled meeting on May 12th, 2009, the Anchorage Municipal Assembly introduced an ordinance that would amend the city's anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation. And to sweeten the pot and make it more digestible, they've added "veteran's status" to the proposed ordinance. The ordinance is scheduled for a public hearing on June 9th.
The proposed ordinance, AO NO. 2009-64, is the brainchild of Downtown Assemblyman Patrick Flynn. On his blog, Flynn discloses that he wanted to introduce this ordinance months ago, but was dissuaded by proponents who didn't want it to become a political football during the mayoral campaign (Translation: Eric Croft would have been lucky to get 30 percent against Dan Sullivan had it been introduced). Flynn is also running a poll about it on the main page of his blog.
AO NO. 2009-64 would expand anti-discrimination protection by amending Anchorage Code Chapters 5.10, Equal Rights Commission, and 5.20, Unlawful Discriminatory Practices, to insert the words "sexual orientation" and "veteran's status" into the lists of stock-standard diversity variables already published throughout the chapters. It will also include the following definitions of the two categories:
Sexual orientation means actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or gender expression or identity. As used in this definition, “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.
Veteran means a person who is an active member of the United States Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, National Guard, or organized Military reserves, or a person who has separated from the military service of the United States Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, National Guard, or organized Military reserves under conditions which are not dishonorable.
To allay the concerns of traditional conservatives, a religious exemption clause has been included:
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, veteran’s status, or physical or mental disability.
Nevertheless, the religious exemption clause does not placate Anchorage Baptist Temple Pastor Jerry Prevo. Pastor Prevo, a long time pro-family activist, has consistently and courageously fought the promotion and statutory protection of the homosexual lifestyle for over three decades now. And he plans on opposing this ordinance, as he believes the proposal is an example of one part of the community trying to force its values on everyone.
"It's an issue that the homosexual community is using to force homosexuality on the people," said Prevo, who also fought the first sexual orientation protections in the 1970s. He said the sponsors of the current ordinance are trying to pry open the door to broader gay rights, which he said most Alaskans don't want. Prevo said he plans a public campaign to fight the proposed change, including taking it to the pulpit this Sunday to tell his congregation about it. Prevo said he thinks veterans were included in the ordinance just to distract from the "sexual orientation" issue. He warned that making the proposed law could open employers and landlords to a cascade of lawsuits. "If I were a veteran, I'd be upset that they are linking the two together," Prevo said.
Pastor Prevo's concern about this ordinance being used as a Trojan horse is not unwarranted. In February, Fairbanks residents got a first hand lesson on how that works. In two separate readings, the Fairbanks School Board passed legislation making transgendered students a protected class, and brushed aside concerns about bathroom usage. The pro-family lobby slept through that fiasco - but they are wide awake now. And ready to fight.
And Pastor Prevo has the wherewithal to offer serious opposition. Not only is Anchorage Baptist Temple one of the largest and most influential churches in the state, but they also have their own radio and television stations. The infrastructure to get the message out is in place. All we have to do is provide the support. Those of us who stand tall for traditional cultural values need to step up to the plate and join Pastor Prevo in opposing this ordinance. Besides, linking veterans with homos is about as cynical as it gets.