Anchorage municipal attorney rejects initiative to change equal rights ordinance
The battle between religious freedom and LGBT rights in Anchorage is at a standstill, with one side trying to figure out their next move.
Wednesday, the Anchorage Municipal Attorney’s office rejected a ballot initiative from a group that wants to make changes to the equal rights ordinance the Anchorage Assembly passed in 2015.
The ordinance protects people from being fired or denied housing and services because they’re lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The sponsors of the initiative petition, who call their effort the Protect Our Privacy Initiative, want to add religious and other exemptions to the existing municipal law.
Too many at once, according to the municipal attorney’s office. In a written response, the office concluded the petition is legally deficient, citing municipal and state laws that only allow ballot initiatives to address a “single subject.”
The response points out a “lack of any single ‘general idea’ unifying the measure.” The proposed ballot initiative includes several changes, like allowing access to restrooms to be regulated based on the gender assigned to someone at birth. It also addresses workplace, marriage and adoption policies.
Attorneys advised against the title, Protect Our Privacy Initiative, stating it isn’t neutral or fair and that “many, particularly in the transgender community, would see the measure as undermining their privacy interests.”
In its response, the municipal attorney’s office noted it stopped examining the ballot initiative for further legal requirements after recommending the municipal clerk inform the sponsors that the initiative would not be certified.
LGBT advocates were happy to hear about the municipal attorney’s conclusion.
“We’re very excited,” said Billy Farrell, executive director of Identity, of the decision Wednesday. “Fairness is an Anchorage value. It always has been an Anchorage value, and for the last year and a half, Anchorage has really lived up to that with this inclusive non-discrimination ordinance. And we’re just very happy to see that reaffirmed today, and that Anchorage will continue to be a place where every citizen can live, work and play.”
Kim Minnery, the primary sponsor of the initiative, said she and the other women whose names are listed on the document have no immediate comment and are evaluating how to proceed from here.
Deputy clerk of elections Amanda Moser said in an email Thursday that Anchorage municipal code gives the sponsors 30 days from the date of distribution of the decision to appeal to the Superior Court of the State of Alaska.
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