Voting “yes” on One Anchorage’s Proposition 5 is a vote for equal rights within the city of Anchorage, and it has been a long time coming. Proposition 5 seeks to amend the Anchorage Municipal Code, Title 5 – Equal Rights, to include sexual orientation and transgender identity along with the already established inclusions of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, age or physical or mental disability.
Proposition 5 would make it illegal in Anchorage to deny someone an interview, job, promotion, a loan, housing, etc based solely on his or her sexual orientation. The goal of Proposition 5 is to level the playing field, so that all Anchorage residents are judged based on their contributions to the community, work ethic and the general quality of their performance rather than who they are perceived to sleep with.
The opposition to this amendment largely fears that it will violate their First Amendment right to freely practice their religious beliefs, as is stated on the homepage of the Protect You Rights – Vote No on Prop 5 website. Another reason some oppose Proposition 5 is because they do not believe there is discrimination towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community in Anchorage, and believe the amendment is unneeded.
Those concerned about having their religious beliefs trampled have nothing to fear. The language of Proposition 5 explicitly guarantees protections to those who choose to conduct business based on their religious beliefs, stating, “It is the express intent of this chapter to guarantee legal protections consistent with federal and state constitutional freedoms and laws, including freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the free exercise of religion.”
Proposition 5 also does not alter the religious exemptions already in place in the municipality’s equal rights code (5.20.090 – Religious exemptions), which reads, “It shall be lawful for a bona fide religious or denominational institution, organization, corporation, association, educational institution, or society, to limit, select or give preferential treatment in employment, admissions, accommodations, advantages, facilities, benefits, or services, to persons of the same religion or denomination, that is reasonably calculated to promote the religious principles for which it is established or maintained. Such organizations otherwise remain subject to the other provisions in this title with regard to race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, age, or physical or mental disability.”
Discrimination in Anchorage is an issue. Mayor Sullivan vetoed Ordinance 64, an ordinance which passed the Anchorage Assembly with seven votes, in the summer of 2009 based on what he considered lack of evidence of actual discrimination against the LGBT community. The flaw in this logic is that there can be no court cases and bonafide proof if there are no laws or codes declaring something illegal. If it is acceptable to discriminate, it can’t be documented as easily, especially in a form that all parties would consider unbiased.
To answer Mayor Sullivan’s claim that there is no evidence of discrimination, members of the community conducted the Anchorage LGBT Discrimination Survey in 2011 (conducted and compiled chiefly by Melissa S. Green), which includes 268 respondents, all of whom identify as members of the LGBT community.
The final report of the survey, released in March 2012, gives several statistics proving that while Anchorage is better than many cities, discrimination still exists. 76% percent of respondents have received verbal abuse, 42.5% have been threatened with physical violence, 32.8% have been followed or chased, 29.9% have experienced property damage, 18.3% have experienced physical violence, while 6% have been sexually assaulted for their perceived sexual orientation or transgendered identity.
In addition, 44% of respondents report that they’ve been harassed by their employer and/or coworkers (16% of those respondents felt forced to leave their jobs as a result) and 18.7% of respondents have been harassed by either their landlord or other tenants.
The report goes on to include harassment statistics regarding medical employees, schools and even by Anchorage police officers; it includes detailed information and even more broken down statistics that are shocking for an allegedly tolerant city.
To be fair, the LGBT community already has some protections in Anchorage. Some businesses and organizations have it written in their own non-discrimination policies that sexual orientation, gender identity and/or transgendered identity are protected, including the University of Alaska, but the key word here is “some.”
Proposition 5 is needed in Anchorage. It will give protections to hard-working, tax-paying citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation of transgendered identity. It will allow people to be judged based on their job performance, credit scores and community contributions rather than who they are perceived to sleep with or the shape of their genitalia (which, in all honesty, is no one’s business but their own).
Disclaimer: The Northern Light itself is not affiliated with One Anchorage or Proposition 5, but some employees and contributors have volunteered for the movement.
“Chapter 5.20 – Unlawful discriminatory practices.” Anchorage, Alaska, Code of Ordinances – Title 5 – Equal Rights. Web. <http://library.municode.com/HTML/12717/level2/TIT5EQRI_CH5.20UNDIPR.html>.
“Equal Protection for All.” Yes On Proposition 5. Web. <http://www.oneanchorage.com/>.
Green, Melissa S. (2012). Anchorage LGBT Discrimination Survey: Final Report. Anchorage, AK: Identity, Inc.
Minnery, Jim. “Homepage.” Protect You Rights – Vote No on Prop 5. Web. <http://www.protectanchorage.org/>.