by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
The One Anchorage campaign filed an application Sept. 1 with the Anchorage, Alaska, municipal clerk's office to place an initiative on the April 2012 ballot asking voters to give LGBT Alaskans the same legal protections already provided to women and minorities in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
On its website (www.oneanchorage.com), the group describes the Equal Rights Initiative campaign participants as 'a diverse group of Anchorage citizens who believe in our Alaskan values of inclusiveness and fairness,' including 'LGBT, faith, political, business, labor, and minority community leaders.'
Arliss Sturgulewski, a former state senator and Republican gubernatorial candidate, is the initiative's official sponsor and co-chair of the One Anchorage Campaign. Former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles is the alternate sponsor and co-chair. Other co-sponsors include Alaska Constitutional Convention delegate Vic Fischer, former First Alaskans Institute President and CEO Janie Leask, the Rev. Michael Burke of St. Mary's Episcopal Church of Anchorage, and leaders of Alaska's LGBT community.
'In Alaska, we have a live-and-let-live attitude,' said Sturgulewski. 'However, under current laws, a woman could be fired from her job solely because she is a Lesbian. No one should live in fear that they can be fired for reasons having nothing to do with their job performance.'
The Equal Rights Initiative simply provides the exact same legal protections to Gay and Transgender Alaskans that we already provide to women, minorities, and others, including on the basis of age, disability, marital status, and religion.
'No one should be discriminated against solely because they are Gay or Transgender,' One Anchorage officials told SGN. 'But, under current federal, state, and local law it is perfectly legal to fire or refuse to hire someone because she is a Lesbian, for reasons having nothing to do with her work performance or job qualifications.'
Co-sponsor Burke added: 'In Anchorage, we believe that all residents should be treated fairly and equally by our laws. This initiative ensures that Gay and Transgender Alaskans who work hard and play by the rules will have the exact same legal protections as other Anchorage residents.'
In 2009, the Anchorage Assembly passed a very similar ordinance by a vote of 7 to 4, but the mayor vetoed it.
Alaska's LGBT community has been working since then to address the absence of federal, state, or local laws protecting them against discrimination. Leaders of the campaign include Alaskans Together (the statewide LGBT advocacy organization) and representatives of groups such as Identity, Inc. (Anchorage's LGBT organization and community center), the ACLU of Alaska, and PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).
Campaign supporters will have until Dec. 12 to collect the necessary signatures of registered voters needed to place the initiative on the April 3, 2012, ballot.
'Once we've got the correct number of signatures, and they are verified, we will begin an official campaign,' Trevor Storrs, One Anchorage campaign chair, told SGN. 'We do expect some level of pushback. In the past, we've had some pushback from the Anchorage Baptist Temple.'
Storrs notes that Anchorage is nothing like Cicely, the small Alaskan town depicted on the TV show Northern Exposure. 'We are an urban center,' he said. 'Everyday life for LGBT Alaskans is just everyday life. However, we do not have equality. That is what this initiative is all about. We are second-class citizens and, when you look at that, you will find that individuals here in Anchorage have experienced discrimination - both direct and indirect.'
A ballot initiative can be expensive, time consuming, and difficult, said Storrs, but he maintains that One Anchorage is up for the challenge.
'We are approaching this campaign in a strategic manner,' he said. 'We truly believe that the popular vote will happen and we will win.'
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