Saturday, June 06, 2009

Anchorage Assembly To Introduce Revision To Proposed Gay Nondiscrimination Ordinance On June 9th, But Pastor Jerry Prevo Still Opposed To It

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.

Anchorage's city administration has rewritten a proposed law banning discrimination against gays, lesbians and bisexuals to make clear that it wouldn't apply to small, home-operated businesses or to owner-occupied four-plexes or duplexes. The new version of the law also drops a second category originally proposed for inclusion in the city's equal rights law -- military veteran's status. City officials said some veterans' organizations had asked for more time to discuss the issue. Stories published by the Anchorage Daily News and KTUU Channel 2 with video. All previous posts on this issue can be viewed HERE, beginning with the most recent post.

The revised ordinance, designated AO 2009-64(S), can be viewed either HERE or HERE. The newest changes are clearly marked on the text.

Although the Anchorage Daily News reports that lame-duck Mayor Matt Claman proposed the ordinance at the behest of EqualityWorks, Downtown Assemblyman Patrick Flynn is the Assembly sponsor of the original proposed ordinance, AO 2009-64. The official agenda for the June 9th Assembly meeting still shows the original proposed ordinance (AO 2009-64) rather than the revised proposed ordinance (AO 2009-64S), so it is unclear whether the revised ordinance will be presented instead of the original or in addition to the original. How Assembly Members are likely to vote on this issue was prognosticated HERE. The June 9th Assembly meeting begins at 5:00 P.M., but the order of presentation listed on the agenda shows that discussion of AO 2009-64, which is listed as item 14C under "New Public Hearings", is unlikely to begin before 6:00 P.M.

The city administration also issued some additional clarification on the expected effects. City attorney James Reeves explained what it would not allow:

-- It would not allow men to come to work dressed as women
-- It would not allow men dressed as women to enter women's restrooms in public facilities or businesses
-- It would not require employers to allow employees to advocate a particular sexual preference in the workplace;
-- Sex-related crimes, including pedophilia, would still be illegal.

In reality, the ordinance could not forbid the first three listed behaviors. Rather, it would simply not grant statutory protection to them.

But these changes and assurances did not satisfy Anchorage Baptist Temple Pastor Jerry Prevo, who updated the SOS Anchorage website with the following message:

NEW!!! A revised version of the sexual orientation ordinance has been released by the acting Mayor. Supposedly, it is to prevent some of the problems we have raised. However, the term “sexual orientation” is not acceptable in any discrimination ordinance. The first ordinance [which was AO 2009-64] shows what the homosexual movement really wants. We must say NO to the inclusion of homosexuality in any discrimination ordinance. Please encourage the Assembly to vote NO on this ordinance and do not amend Anchorage’s discrimination ordinance to include homosexuality as an acceptable alternative lifestyle. This will eventually lead to homosexuals wanting to make homosexual marriages legal in Alaska.

In addition, Dr. Prevo revealed in a separate interview with ADN reporter Julia O'Malley that if the proposed "gay" ordinance passes, he is considering organizing a voter initiative to overturn it. Dr. Prevo gently reminded O'Malley that he had won before (the successful statewide 1998 campaign to constitutionally define marriage as between one man and one woman). He also just as gently reminded O'Malley that some Assembly members had lost elections in the more distant past because of opposing positions favored by Dr. Prevo. Ironically, in that same report, O'Malley, who identifies herself as gay, states that she has never experienced discrimination because of it, and that everyone she's personally come out to has been totally respectful, so that should make the reader wonder why this revised ordinance is even necessary in the first place.

The Alaska Family Council is also unimpressed. They held a pastor's briefing on Friday June 5th about what they say the ordinance would mean for churches. They continue to insist that the ordinance pits religion against discrimination. "It's become a bad word because people say well it's all about hatred and bigotry," said Jim Minnery, president of the Alaska Family Council. "No, it's not. It's about us being able to live our lives in a way that doesn't force us to do something that we don't feel comfortable doing. It's called religious liberty." Their previous statement was cross-posted HERE.

And Alaska Voices columnist Kevin Clarkson, who is a lawyer, has also expressed reservations about the ordinance. His primary concern is the religious exemption. He believes granting an exemption to religious organizations is not enough; he wants it to extend to individuals who conscientiously object to it (in the same vein as conscientious objectors to military service during war). And his column triggered a question on my part; who defines "religion"? Can any organization which calls itself "religious" qualify? Are we in danger of moving into a political environment were religions will have to officially register, as they do in authoritarian countries and even in some democracies? This is probably another reason why Dr. Prevo raises the question of increased litigation.

Revising the proposed ordinance seems to have had minimal impact on public opinion. In an "unscientific" poll taken on June 5th, KTUU Channel 2 asked the question, "Does the removal of veteran status from a city anti-discrimination ordinance make you more or less likely to support such an ordinance?" Of the 218 respondents, 10 percent said "More", 34 percent said "Less", and 56 percent said "No Change". So revising the ordinance to eliminate veterans has only a marginal effect.

This proposed ordinance is still a solution looking for a problem. The real bigotry in Anchorage is not directed against gays, but directed against Christians, primarily by the progressive community. Many of the comments posted to the ADN story reek of anti-Christian invective, and some even advocate revoking the tax-exempt status of Anchorage Baptist Temple, although churches are free to express themselves politically on issues and retain tax-exempt status so long as they don't endorse or support specific candidates. Some of the most virulent expressions of anti-Christian bigotry flowed from the pen of professional grump Elise Patkotak on May 19th and again on May 26th.

It should be obvious that accusations of bigotry directed against the Christian community are designed primarily as protective cover for increasing societal anti-Christian bigotry.

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