Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Anchorage's Eagle River Assemblyman Bill Starr Publicly Leaning Against Anchorage's Proposed Gay Rights Ordinance (Ordinance #64, or AO 2009-64)

Update June 16th 8:50 P.M. Alaska time: 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.

Other members of the Anchorage Assembly are now starting to take public positions on AO 2009-64(S), now increasingly referred to as "Ordinance 64". One of the first is Eagle River Assemblyman Bill Starr, whose position was disclosed on June 14th in a LTE by Sherry Eckrich published in the Anchorage Daily News (scroll down to the third letter, entitled "Assemblyman shows bias"). Eckrich documented Starr's June 9th e-mail response to her June 8th enquiry about his position on AO 2009-64(S):

"I plan to vote No on the ordinance as presented. The consequences on businesses, churches and schools is unknown. The topic seems centered on public acceptance of gays, lesbians and transgenders and not specific mistreatment or documented discrimination. Laws and charter amendments are not designed to shelter public judgments on our citizens. I see no specific issue this action is intended to correct."


However, Starr's response came on the same day that testimony on AO 2009-64(S) was first delivered, so it is unknown whether or not the testimony may have changed his mind. However, it is safe to say that Starr most likely is still leaning against supporting the ordinance. And according to another ADN article, he is likely to be joined in opposition by Assemblyman Chris Birch, who not only does not see any evidence of organized discrimination against gays, but also believes the measure is being deliberately stampeded and fast-tracked.

Leaning in favor of the ordinance are Assembly members Patrick Flynn, who still awaits the finalized version, Harriet Drummond, who indicates a majority of her constituents support it, and Mike Gutierrez, who still favors it but who said he was concerned about some of the recent changes that may alter protections in the existing law. Assembly chair Debbie Ossiander is reportedly re-writing the ordinance to make it more palatable to both sides; this re-write has now been accomplished and is known as AO 2009-64(S-1). Veteran conservative pundit Paul Jenkins thinks that Patrick Flynn, Harriet Drummond, Elvi Gray-Jackson, Sheila Selkregg and Mike Gutierrez are likely to vote for the ordinance. Six votes are needed to pass it. If the Assembly passes it, the only action to stop it is a mayoral veto. Matt Claman won't veto it, so the more people who sign up to testify, the more likely we can delay the Assembly vote until after July 1st, when Dan Sullivan will become mayor. Sullivan hasn't yet declared himself, but is likely to veto the measure should it come before him.

Testimony resumes on June 16th; scroll down to item 14C on the agenda. The Assembly meeting begins at 5:00 P.M., but testimony on this ordinance is not expected to begin until 7:00 P.M. Only 88 of the 342 people who previously signed up to testify were able to do so on June 9th. This means 254 people remain on the list. At three minutes per person, it would take 12.7 hours to accommodate them all. Consequently, an extra session is scheduled beginning at 4 P.M. on June 17th, in addition to the next regular Assembly meeting on June 23rd.

Additional justification in favor of a No vote is cited on the SOS Anchorage website and the Alaska Family Council website. However, some experienced conservative pundits like Dan Fagan, Dave Stieren, and Andy Clary are urging that people who testify against it de-emphasize the religious aspect; if 200 people all get up there spouting Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:26-27, it will make us all look like intolerant fools. Consequently, those who testify are best advised to focus more on the following talking points:

-- Impingement upon personal liberty; namely, the right to control one's property and access to it thereof.
-- Lack of justification. Unlike the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was passed to dismantle organized institutional discrimination in the form of forced racial segregation in the United States, there is no organized institutional discrimination against nor forced segregation of gays in Anchorage.
-- Granting statutory protection to a particular form of behavior rather than to a status. While race and sex (or gender) are determined by birth and thus constitute a status, homosexuality is a form of behavior. It is questionable whether or not we should be granting statutory protection to a particular form of behavior.
-- What do we mean by "religious exemption"? Specifically, what will we define as a "religion"? Does one have to belong to a church to qualify? There is no provision for individual conscientious objection for those who are unchurched.

Review all previous posts on this issue HERE if desired for more background.

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