Put it to a vote? Group seeks changes to Anchorage anti-discrimination law.
A group of Anchorage residents wants to charge parts of the municipality’s anti-discrimination law. They’ve filed a petition with City Hall and say people could be asked to vote on the issue in just a matter of months.
The petition’s sponsors call their effort the Protect Our Privacy Initiative. It’s aimed at adding religious and other exemptions to the municipality’s anti-discrimination laws, which were passed by the Anchorage Assembly in 2015.
The initiative’s primary sponsor, Kim Minnery, said she’s been planning to take action ever since.
“It left this bill without any protection for freedom of conscience and freedom of speech,” Minnery said.
Her goal is two-fold. First, allow bathrooms and changing rooms to be limited to those of the same biological sex.
Second, allow businesses and individuals the ability to decline participation in activities or events that go against their religious or moral beliefs.
Proposed Petition: Shall the Anchorage Municipal Code be amended to: protect the privacy of citizens by requiring that certain restrooms and changing facilities in municipal buildings be designated for and used only by persons of the same sex; provide that private employers, public accommodations and other persons may lawfully choose to adopt sex-specific standards for restroom access, and dress and grooming policies; provide that no public accommodation may be forced to promote a message or expressive event with which the owner or operator disagrees; provide that employers, public accommodations and other persons may not be compelled to participate in certain activities that violate a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction; and provide exemptions for religious organizations with respect to employment decisions and the provision of adoption services?
A clause included in the proposed amendments specifically notes the inclusion of same-sex wedding-related events.
Minnery said the changes are a matter of protecting everyone’s freedom.
“Look at places where these ordinances have been passed without freedom of protection exemptions,” Minnery said. “The government has brought people to their knees, the government has closed businesses, levied fines and actually punished people.”
Reverend Michael Burke, with the group Christians for Equality, said repealing any part of the municipality’s anti-discrimination law would be an assault on Anchorage.
“We will always disagree with things, but that doesn’t mean in a place of public accommodation that I should treat those I disagree with any differently than the people I completely agree with,” Burke said.
He said the Protect Our Privacy Initiative doesn’t promote pubic safety. He called it a cloak for discrimination.
“To use something as sacred and vitally important as religious liberty as a cloak for bigotry based on misunderstanding is itself deeply offensive to our values as a community,” Burke said.
Minnery said the municipal attorney has 10 days to review the initiative’s language and decide whether it will be allowed to move forward. If it does, its sponsors will still need to collect thousands of signatures in order to get the issue on the April 2017 ballot.
Municipal clerk Amanda Moser said Thursday that 5,754 signatures are needed — 10 percent of voters who voted in the last regular mayoral election.
Minnery says they hope to collect more than 7,000 signatures.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the petition needed 7,000 signatures to make it on the April ballot. This has since been edited.
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