Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Testimony Resumed July 7th On Ordinance 64, The Proposed Anchorage Gay Nondiscrimination Ordinance; Matt Claman Introduces Prospective Ballot Measure

During the regular meeting of the Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday July 7th, 2009, testimony on the proposed gay non-discrimination ordinance, now routinely referred to as Ordinance #64, continued, although this issue ended up sharing the spotlight with the homeless issue and with the restoration of staffing in certain superfluous positions. Incorporates stories from the Anchorage Daily News, KTUU Channel 2, and KTVA Channel 11.

The meeting was also the first at which new Mayor Dan Sullivan officiated. Assembly Chair Debbie Ossiander re-opened the list to anyone who still wants to testify, and there were already over 200 people still on the list. Adding to the mix was Matt Claman. Reverting to his prior role as West Anchorage Assembly Member, Claman decided to introduce a prospective ballot measure which would allow Anchorage voters to decide on this issue during the 2010 municipal election. Dan Sullivan is known to be favorably disposed towards such a ballot measure. But Claman could barely find the three votes necessary merely to set it for a future public hearing. Claman said he agreed to set back public hearings on the charter changes until August 11th to give the Assembly more time to deal with the matter already before it. The proposed charter amendments now available HERE and HERE.

Once again, here's a summary of the three separate versions of Ordinance 64:

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.

But now there might be a fourth version added to the mix. Assemblyman Patrick Flynn, who is one of the proponents of Ordinance 64, is drafting a compromise version that would reduce the burden upon small business owners by mirroring Federal standards rather than Anchorage's more stringent standards. In his version, Flynn would exempt employers with five or fewer employees, and it would not merely apply just to sexual orientation, but encompass all "protected" classes. This contrasts to Anchorage’s present equal rights law, which defines an employer as “…an employer, public or private, of one or more persons.” Flynn is sympathetic to the concerns of those small business owners as the process can be rather daunting (for both sides, actually), especially if one cannot afford legal representation. He recognizes that a small business owner with limited resources cannot hope to compete fairly in the justice system with cash-flush public enforcers fueled by taxation.

Patrick Flynn's earnest efforts to find a compromise digestible for us "redshirts" are commendable, but it all revolves around whether one considers homosexuality to be a "status" like race, or merely a form of behavior. Those who subscribe to the latter do not believe we should be granting statutory protection to a particular form of behavior. The SOS Anchorage website contains an interesting article entitled "The Overhauling of Straight America". First published in 1987, it documents the longterm strategy of the gay rights movement, and you will see that they've met many of their objectives. Getting official "nondiscrimination" protection is one of their strategies.

Leading informational websites by partisans:

-- SOS Anchorage
-- Alaska Family Council
-- Equality Works
-- Alaskans Together For Equality