Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Alaska HB139 Gay Nondiscrimination Bill Heard And Held In House State Affairs Committee

A bill which would outlaw discrimination against gays and transgenders is working its way through the Alaska State Legislature, and received a committee hearing on April 9th, 2013. The bill is designated HB139, and the primary sponsor is Rep. Beth Kerttula (D-Juneau). Co-sponsors include Reps. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka), Max Gruenberg (D-Anchorage), and Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage). This is the second try for Kerttula; last year, she introduced HB165, which got buried in State Affairs.

Summary of Legislation: HB139 would add to the powers and duties of the State Commission for Human Rights, and make it a crime for a financial institution, employer, labor organization, property owner, manager, or an agent thereof to discriminate against someone due to sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. Violation of AS 18.80.200 et. al. is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 or a period of imprisonment of not more than 30 days, or both.

The bill was originally filed on February 22nd and referred to the House Judiciary Committee and the House State Affairs Committee. On April 9th, the state affairs committee held a hearing on the bill, and have chosen to hold the bill in committee. Although the minutes of the hearing have not yet been posted HERE, there are links to the documentation considered by the House State Affairs Committee:

-- HB139.pdf: The text of the bill
-- HB139 Sponsor Statement.pdf: Rep. Beth Kerttula's statement.
-- HB139 Sectional Analysis.pdf: Rep. Kerttula provides a breakdown by section as to the specific language to be inserted.
-- HB139 Anchorage Research.pdf: Six-page Executive Summary of Anchorage LGBT Discrimination Survey: Final Report
-- HB139 National Research.pdf: An excerpt of the Center for American Progress and the Williams Institute's summarization of the effects of nondiscrimination legislation.
-- HB139 Letter of Support Longworth.pdf: A letter of support from Juneau Dr. Maureen Longworth, who also says that the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Alaska Academy of Family Physicians all support legislation to end discrimination against LGBT persons.
-- HB139-DOC-OC-04-04-13.pdf: Fiscal note.
-- Letters of Support HB139.PDF: Letters from gays and their allies, including Jean Craciun, who heads up Craciun Research Group, an erstwhile Alaska pollster, and Trevor Storrs, who headed up the Proposition 5 campaign in Anchorage.
-- Additional Letters of Support HB139.PDF: Shows a copy of an ADN Compass piece from a Juneau supporter.

Rep. Kerttula defended her bill once again, citing Elizabeth Peratrovich as her inspiration. Meanwhile, State Affairs Committee Chair Bob Lynn merely acknowledged that "the times they are a-changing". Rep. Lynn is on record in a 2012 Alaska Family Action Voters Guide as opposing making gays a protected class, as are three of the other members of the committee. So even the progressive Alaska Commons, which supports the bill, acknowledges that it's unlikely to make it out of committee.

Of course, if such a bill was to pass, you would have situations like what's taking place in Washington state right now where Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers & Gifts, located in Richland, for refusing to provide services for a same-sex wedding. Ferguson is seeking an injunction that would permanently require the business to provide services to gays and lesbians; should the company continue to avoid compliance, a $2,000 fine would be imposed for each failure to abide by the law. Instead of declining for other reasons, the owner, Barronelle Stutzman, decided to be honest and cited her Christian views on marriage as a reason for her refusal. Stutzman has catered to gays for years and has employed gays, but draws the line at providing services for gay weddings. Washington has had a law similar to HB139 since 2006. Stutzman is standing firm, with her lawyer responding to the challenge and claiming that non-profit legal groups are ready to represent the florist’s interests in court.

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