Friday, June 19, 2009

Anchorage Assembly Must Pass Proposed Gay Nondiscrimination Ordinance #64 By June 23rd To Guarantee Implementation; Passage Doubtful

On June 19th, 2009, the Anchorage Daily News reports that the Anchorage Assembly must pass Ordinance #64, the proposed gay nondiscrimination ordinance, no later than Tuesday June 23rd to guarantee its implementation. Current mayor Matt Claman supports the legislation and would not veto it. The main reason for this deadline is that, according to Article V, Section 5.02(c) of the Anchorage Municipal Code (AMC), the mayor has seven days to veto it (link to AMC table of contents HERE in case direct link doesn't work). The last day of the veto window would be June 30th, which is the last day that Claman is in office.

A later passage by the Assembly would move the veto window into July, when Dan Sullivan takes office effective July 1st. Although Sullivan has taken no public position on Ordinance #64, he is considered to be more likely to veto it, according to Debbie Ossiander. In the event of a mayoral veto, the assembly, by two-thirds majority vote of the total membership, may override the veto any time within 21 days after its exercise. This would mean eight of the 11 assembly members would have to vote to override it.

Passing Ordinance #64 by June 23rd will be no simple matter. First, the Assembly must decide how to accomodate all remaining public testimony, and second, decide on which of the three competing versions to pass. And, as of this post, there is only one remaining Assembly meeting scheduled to accomplish these tasks; the June 23rd meeting (agenda HERE).

-- Accomodate remaining public testimony. There are 189 people remaining on the signup list to testify; 539 people signed up, and 350 have already testified. At three minutes per person, it would require just under 10 hours to take all remaining testimony. The June 23rd Assembly meeting doesn't even begin until 5:00 P.M. Assembly chair Debbie Ossiander had temporarily closed out the signup list so no additional people can join in. Ossiander is also weighing two other strategies to accomodate public testimony.
---- Schedule an additional Assembly meeting for Monday June 22nd. This could be done on short notice, and activists on both sides must be alert for this development. But a new ADN article indicates there will be NO additional meetings called.
---- Curtail remaining public testimony. Ossiander is consulting with city attorneys to determine if the Assembly can legally prevent those still on the signup list from testifying. However, this step is likely to provoke public interest litigation. But the new ADN article indicates that not only will public testimony NOT be curtailed, but more will be allowed to sign up.

-- Decide which of the three versions of Ordinance #64 to pass. Here are the three versions of the ordinance currently in circulation, their designations, and their effects:

Version 1 - Ordinance No. AO 2009-64: Original version, this is the most liberal version, and the one supported by Assembly members Flynn, Gray-Jackson, Gutierrez, Drummond, and possibly Selkregg. Known opposition Birch and Starr.

• Adds veteran’s status and sexual orientation to the list of protected categories.
• Defines “sexual orientation” as homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people.

Version 2 - Ordinance No. AO 2009-64(S): Second version crafted by Mayor Matt Claman.

• Removes “veteran’s status.”
• Excludes small, home-operated businesses with no more than four people from the whole law, meaning those businesses can discriminate based on sexual orientation, race, color, sex, religion, ethnicity, age, etc.
• All employers have the right to impose dress codes or other work rules.
• Biologically male people must use male bathrooms, and biologically female people must use female restrooms.
• Exempts religious organizations — so they can discriminate based on sexual orientation.

Version 3 - Ordinance No. AO 2009-64(S-1): Third version, submitted by Debbie Ossiander. Assembly members Gutierrez and Gray-Jackson would drop from the list of supporters.

• Definition of “sexual orientation” is narrowed to exclude transgender people.
• Allows all employers to discriminate based on sexual orientation.
• The city’s Equal Rights Commission is instructed to track complaints alleging discrimination (to inform further discussion).
• Businesses that deal with the public can impose dress codes, work rules, codes of conduct, etc.

Some hints of compromise are now being floated by opponents of the ordinance as well. On June 17th, the Anchorage Daily News reported that although Anchorage Baptist Temple pastor Dr. Jerry Prevo, the most outspoken opponent of the ordinance, still doesn't "like" any of the three versions presently in circulation, he said he would "possibly" consider supporting an amendment if the word "sexual orientation" was removed and in its place was written "straight, gay and lesbians," and if iron-clad exemptions were given to not only religious organizations but also religious people. But there has been no follow-up on this statement posted on the SOSAnchorage website.

So even if all public testimony is successfully "accommodated" by June 23rd, there is likely to be a robust debate among Assembly members as to which of the three versions upon which to vote. Version 1 is unlikely to pass muster - too much conservative opposition. Version 3 is considered too watered down by a couple of the liberal Assembly members; it most likely will be shot down. So if the Assembly actually votes on the issue, it most likely will be version 2. And version 2 may have the strength to pass, but just barely. But the new ADN article just published after I started this post indicates prospects for passage are rapidly dimming.

In the increasingly-remote event that a version of the ordinance passes, there would likely be a campaign for a ballot measure to repeal it later. See all previous posts on this issue HERE. Leading informational websites by partisans:

-- SOS Anchorage
-- Alaska Family Council
-- Equality Works
-- Assemblyman Patrick Flynn, a major supporter of the ordinance.

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