Thursday, February 9, 2012

Dan Savage speaks out for One Anchorage

Dan Savage with Trevor Storrs and Jeffrey Mittman of the One Anchorage leadership team--- by Mel Green

Looks like Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller will soon be recognized as legally married in their home state of Washington. But today Dan’s in Anchorage — and he’s no happier than we are about Alaska’s lack of basic civil rights protections for LGBT people.
Dan Savage (center) with Trevor Storrs (left) and Jeffrey Mittman of the One Anchorage leadership team at a One Anchorage fundraiser, 8 February 2011. Photo courtesy One Anchorage.

“Washington State Got Marriage Equality This Week—But Anchorage Doesn’t Even Have Basic Civil Rights Protections for LGBT People.”  That’s how Washington resident Dan Savage — currently in Anchorage for his third visit to University of Alaska Anchorage — began a blog post this morning, fresh from a fundraiser last night for One Anchorage, the group behind the Anchorage Equal Rights Initiative.

Now on the April 3 Anchorage municipal election ballot as Proposition 5, the initiative, if passed, will amend Anchorage’s equal rights code to provide the same legal protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender identity that are already provided based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, age, physical disability, and mental disability.
Protesting Mayor Sullivan's veto of AO 64
Savage’s blog post delivers a complete history of the 37-year fight to gain basic civil rights protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender residents of the Municipality of Anchorage — going all the way back, in fact, to 1975-76, when the Municipality was created through combining the governments of the city of Anchorage and the Greater Anchorage Area Borough.  Back then, and for a total of three times in Anchorage history so far, equal protection under the law for at least some LGBTQ people in Anchorage was granted, only to be stripped away again. Most recently, we gained and then lost our rights with the 2009 equal rights ordinance, AO-64, which passed the Anchorage Assembly by a vote of 7 to 4, only to be vetoed by Mayor Dan Sullivan.  (Sullivan is also up for a vote on April 3, as he runs for reelection against Assemblymember Paul Honeman.)

Savage takes special note of the “massive carveout for religious organizations and churches” provided in Proposition 5.  Under Title 5 of Anchorage’s municipal code, religious organizations and institutions already have a special right to discriminate in certain contexts, if the discrimination is “reasonably calculated to promote the religious principles” of the religious organization:
5.20.090 – Religious exemptions.
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. [Emphasis added]
The ballot initiative, if passed, will do nothing to change this section.  Thus, outside the exemptions specifically spelled out in this section of Title 5, religious organizations are bound to all other provisions of Title 5 with respect to all the personal characteristics covered in the law — except sexual orientation and transgender identity. In other words, religious organizations will be permitted to discriminate against LGBT people, whether or not that discrimination is “reasonably calculated to promote the religious principles” of that organization.

That’s a massive carveout, all right. Under Title 5, the Anchorage Baptist Temple can’t refuse to hire a Jewish or Muslim janitor solely because he or she is Jewish or Muslim, unless they can convince a court that janitorial work has something to do with the promotion of ABT’s religious principles.  But ABT will continue to be able to discriminate freely against a gay or transgender persons without any justification whatsoever.

But, as Savage goes on to explain, initiative opponents still still aren’t happy:
But the religious bigots — [Jerry] Prevo [of the Anchorage Baptist Temple] and [Jim] Minnery [of Alaska Family Council] — are arguing that this special right to discriminate against LGBT people doesn’t go far enough. (And it is a special right: religious groups and individuals in Anchorage are not allowed to discriminate against women, racial minorities, Jewish people, the disabled, the elderly, etc., etc., even if they believe — sincerely! religiously! — that women shouldn’t work outside the home, people be allowed to marry outside their race, the Jews are going to hell, etc., etc.)
Savage is referring to claims made by religious conservatives — with the support of the Alliance Defense Fund, a national antigay/antitrans legal aid group which, among other things, is attempting to defend California’s Prop 8 — that private business owners which are not religious organizations should have the special right to discriminate in hiring, doing business, or renting properties with people whose sexual orientation or gender identity goes against their religious beliefs.

Savage also takes note of the virulent and ugly anti-transgender propaganda we’re likely to see as April 3 approaches, just as we did in 2009:
One Anchorage reps are bracing themselves for the inevitable fear-mongering that will target trans people and the trans-inclusive language in their initiative. When similar initiatives were on the ballot in in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Gainesville, Florida, the haters ran television ads at the last minute that showed men following little girls into public restrooms and distributed flyers with pictures of men in dresses that said the law would “require” schools to hire these men to teach your children. Those ads are coming to Anchorage.
Voters in Kalamazoo and Gainesville extended civil rights protections to their LGBT citizens because the pro-gay campaigns in those cities were able to get on TV with ads calling bullshit on the haters and refuting their lies.
Which is what, Savage says, One Anchorage also intends to do:
One Anchorage
To combat the inevitable, last-minute anti-gay/anti-trans hate campaign, One Anchorage is raising money to get television ads on the air up here in the last weeks of the campaign. They’re asking people to consider donating $35—one dollar for each year that Anchorage has been fighting for equality and basic civil rights protections. (There are no limits on campaign donations for initiatives up here, so if you’re moved to donate $350 or $3500 or $3,500,000, please don’t hesitate.) There’s also the 35/35/35 Club: Ask 35 friends to donate $35 each. You can set up your own page at One Anchorage and you’ll get a fundraising thermometer of your very own!
Thanks to Savage’s column, more national attention is being brought to the fight One Anchorage and its volunteers are doing here in Alaska.

Thanks, Dan!  We in Anchorage look forward to seeing you tonight.
Protesting Mayor Sullivan's veto of AO 64

Don’t forget the upcoming Dine Out for Equality fundraisers at Snow City Cafe, and Sacks Cafe & Restaurant. And don’t forget to vote on April 3.
Dine Out for Equality

  • Date/time: Tuesday, February 14, 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM
  • Location: Snow City Cafe, 1034 West 4th Avenue Anchorage, AK (see map)
Sacks Cafe & Restaurant
  • Date/time: Monday, February 27, 5:30 PM to closing
  • Location: Sacks Cafe & Restaurant, 328 G Street, Anchorage, AK (see map)

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