A group of Anchorage businesses has formed to oppose “bathroom bill” Proposition 1 on Anchorage’s municipal ballot, saying the measure is economically harmful to the city as well as discriminatory against transgender people.

Fair Anchorage No on Prop 1, a group chaired by American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska head Joshua Decker, gathered more than 40 local business leaders at a downtown law office Wednesday. The group hopes to defeat Proposition 1, which would require people to use bathrooms and locker rooms at municipal-owned buildings assigned to their birth genders, as residents vote by mail in the April 3 election.

Bill Popp, president and CEO of the Anchorage Economic Development Corp., said his group’s board of directors had voted to oppose Prop 1 because it would inflict “unnecessary discrimination” on some Anchorage citizens.

“We support protections for Anchorage’s LGBT community, and we believe that all Anchorage residents should be treated equally from the workplace to the locker room,” Popp said.

Seventeen of Alaska’s top 25 employers, Popp said, have workplace policies in place barring discrimination based on sexual orientation – amid a “growing trend” to bar discrimination based on gender identity as well.

“These employers, many of them AEDC investors and board members, recognize that non-discrimination job policies increase the pool of talented job applicants,” Popp said. “They also open new opportunities for innovation, government contracting and growth.”

Bruce Bustamante, president and CEO of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, said his group’s board opposed Prop 1 because it “would convey the message that Anchorage is not a welcoming city.”

“At a time when all state businesses are working to stay competitive and keep workers employed, we simply can’t afford such a discriminatory initiative,” Bustamante said.

Visit Anchorage President and CEO Julie Saupe said her board had also voted to oppose Prop 1, based on its economic implications. She cited North Carolina, which suffered an economic body blow after adopting a similar measure in 2016, as a “prime example.”

“That state will lose nearly $4 billion in business over the next 10 years due to passing a bathroom bill – the move resulted in lost conventions, concerts and businesses deciding to relocate,” Saupe said. “Anchorage cannot afford that type of loss.”

Kim Minnery, with Prop 1 backers Alaska Family Action, said Wednesday that the initiative was aimed at city buildings and not the business community.

“The city made the mandate to open up your bathrooms and your locker rooms,” Minnery said. “We're saying, Prop 1 is saying, you should have a choice as a business on how you handle that.”

Minnery disagreed when asked if Prop 1 would restrict transgendered people’s freedom to use bathrooms, saying individual companies will remain free to set their own policies on bathroom use.

“Businesses will make the choice to continue to have a more open and progressive stance with that, so actually it's not,” Minnery said. “I think we can do better – I think a yes on Prop 1 vote simply returns freedom, choice, and common sense.”

Fair Anchorage has set up a campaign website at fairanchorage.org.

Daniella Rivera contributed information to this story.

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