Monday, June 08, 2009

Local Gay Rights Activist Uses 20-Year-Old Unofficial "Study" To Justify And Promote The Proposed Anchorage 2009 Gay Nondiscrimination Ordinance

The proposed Anchorage gay non-discrimination ordinance, designated AO 2009-64(S), continues to generate robust commentary and discussion. On June 8th, 2009, Anchorage attorney Kevin Clarkson fires another shot at the ordinance over this issue of religious liberty. And Anchorage Daily News reporter Julia O'Malley, who is openly gay, responds to various e-mails HERE. Read Dr. Jerry Prevo's objections to the ordinance HERE.

But it's a comment to a previous story triggering renewed attention. In the comment appended to Matt Claman's June 7th column, an activist using the nickname "Yksin", but who subsequently identifies herself as Melissa Green on the Henkimaa website, refers to an unofficial study compiled by local gay activists back in 1986 which claims significant discrimination against gays in Anchorage.

On the Henkimaa website, she states that she was the principal writer for "One in 10: A Profile of Alaska’s Lesbian & Gay Community" (Anchorage, AK: Identity, 1986), which reported on the results of a survey of 734 lesbian, gay, and bisexual Alaskans on a survey of 100 questions on various aspects of our lives, including experience of discrimination, harassment, and violence. She was also the co-author, along with Jay Brause, of a second report entitled "Identity Reports: Sexual Orientation Bias in Alaska" (Anchorage, AK: Identity, 1989), which comprised three papers:

-- “Coming Out: Issues Surrounding Disclosure of Sexual Orientation” (Green), based primarily on data from One in 10;
-- “Closed Doors: Sexual Orientation Bias in the Anchorage Housing and Employment Markets” (Brause), based on a randomly selected, anonymous survey of 191 employers and 178 landlords in Anchorage;
-- "Prima Facie: Documented Cases of Sexual Orientation Bias in Alaska” (Green), which presented 84 cases from interviews, newspaper accounts, court records, and other documents of violence, harassment, and discrimination in Alaska on the basis of actual or assumed sexual orientation from 1975 to 1987.

She asserts that copies of both reports are available in area libraries, including the Loussac and the UAA/APU Consortium Library. Because I've just learned of these references today, I've not had the time to review them. But Green produced a four-page executive summary of Identity Reports, and cited some supporting statistics. I reproduce the most pertinent below:

Of the 734 respondents to One in 10 (surveyed in 1985):

-- 61 percent reported having been victimized by violence and harassment while in Alaska because of their sexual orientation, predominately verbal abuse but also including threats, police harassment, property damage, and physical violence;
-- 39 percent reported having suffered from discrimination because of sexual orientation in employment, housing, and loans/credit; and
-- 33 percent reported having suffered from discrimination because of sexual orientation from services and institutions.
-- 23 percent believed that they would be fired or laid off if their current employer or supervisor learned of their sexual orientation.
-- 53 percent agreed with the statement that “I feel that my community is unsafe to live in as an openly gay man or lesbian.”

From the “Closed Doors” component of Identity Reports (based on a 1987 survey):

-- 31 percent of the 191 employers who responded to the survey said they would either not hire, promote, or would fire someone they had reason to believe was homosexual.
-- 20 percent of the 178 landlords who responded to the survey said they would either not rent to or would evict someone they had reason to believe was homosexual.

There are two problems with these statistics. First, currency. This survey was conducted over 20 years ago, and Melissa Green is assuming Anchorage has been frozen in a time warp ever since. She fails to account for the fact that society as a whole has become more tolerant of gay people, to include the establishment of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policies in the military and other segments of society. Consequently, she assumes the statistics are still accurate 20 years later.

Second, applicability. In reference to the Closed Doors segment, she's basing her case on perception or expressed intent rather than action. She's assuming that the employers or landlords cited would automatically follow through on their intentions. But would they? Case in point: A gay tenant behaves lawfully and pays rent on time. Someone tells the landlord that the tenant is gay. Is the landlord going to automatically evict a reliable, responsible tenant simply because of what he heard? Unlikely - good tenants are hard to find. The same analogy applies to employers - good employees can also be hard to find, and they are unlikely to be terminated based solely upon outside innuendo.

Melissa Green's experiences are further colored by the fact that she was fired from a local job in 1984 because of what she believes was her homosexuality. But was this the only reason? Perhaps she believes this to be the case, but what would her former employer say? According to her own account, she was fired for not being helpful enough, but she claims it happened only after her employer found out she was gay, so she's automatically assuming she was fired because she was gay. If A, then B. This seems presumptious on the surface. If this new ordinance becomes law, other gay people fired from their jobs would be tempted to launch bogus complaints of discrimination out of a desire for revenge. This could also affect layoff decisions as well; employers might be intimidated out of laying off "protected" employees even if they weren't the most "productive" employees.

Passing a nondiscrimination ordinance robbing landlords and business owners of liberty based upon a presumption of latent guilt seems equally presumptious. This is why pro-family activists must show up at the Assembly meeting on June 9th; the meeting begins at 5:00 P.M., but testimony probably won't begin until 6:00 P.M.

2 comments:

  1. At what point does it stop being them vs. us and become us all trying to stop discrimination? It's a basic human right, and not even 50 years ago people of other races were wanting the same basic right. I hope to god that 50 years from now it will seem ridiculous to the general population to hear about how people tried to stop an anti discrimination law for homosexuals from being passed.

    That being said, it would not hurt businesses or churches at all, all they have to do is become a private business and get rid of their tax exempt status.

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  2. If we knew this campaign would stop at sexual orientation, it might not be so divisive.

    But we know from previous patterns that it will not stop. In a few years, you'll see another group demanding "equal protection". It will never stop.

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