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Legal protections for LGBT people headed for ballot in Anchorage in 2012

Saturday, December 10, 2011
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The sponsor group of an initiative to extend legal protections prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ people has collected 13,515 signatures from Anchorage registered voters in support of putting the measure on the city’s April 2012 ballot.

Anchorage city clerk Barbara Gruenstein said that would take until sometime next week for her office to review the signatures, but that supporters only needed 5,871 valid signatures.

But at least one opposition group — the conservative Christian group, Alaska Family Council — is already planning to campaign against the measure, reported the Anchorage Daily News.

The initiative is similar to a city ordinance that was passed by the Anchorage Assembly in 2009 after weeks of public hearings and debate, but then was vetoed by Mayor Dan Sullivan. The fight before the Assembly was long and loud, with hundreds of people, both proponents and opponents, speaking out.

When he vetoed the gay rights ordinance in 2009, Sullivan famously said he was not convinced there is discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation here. On Thursday, Sarah Erkmann, the mayor’s spokeswoman, said this was his reaction to the initiative:

“Mayor Sullivan believes a ballot initiative is appropriate in that it allows all citizens to weigh in on this subject.”

Existing city law makes it illegal to discriminate in hiring, housing and other opportunities on the basis of race, gender, age, religion, marital status or physical or mental disability. The initiative, if it gets to voters and is passed, will add “sexual orientation, or transgender identity” to the list.

Alaska Family Council president Jim Minnery said the council and its legislative arm, Alaska Family Action, will be in the fore of a battle against the initiative.

“I wish we lived in a world where everyone was automatically treated the same regardless of whether we agreed or disagreed with who they are as people,” Storrs said at a press conference in the City Hall lobby. “The reality is a person who works hard and does a good job can be fired simply because they are gay.”

“It’s not clear that there is any widespread discrimination against the gay community,” Minnery said. “What is clearer is that this is a true threat to religious liberties.”

Trevor Storrs, spokesman for One Anchorage — the group behind the initiative — said One Anchorage volunteers collected signatures from all around town where people gather, from house parties to public areas close to shopping centers.

Storrs also indicated that the group had raised about $90,000 so far for its ballot initiative campaign.

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