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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 6, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 14
Anchorage voters turn backs on Gay rights
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Anchorage voters turn backs on Gay rights

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Voters in Anchorage, Alaska, rejected a measure April 3 that would have extended legal protections in the largest city in Alaska to the LGBT population. Prop 5 failed by a decisive 58 to 42 percent margin.

The city's code already prohibits discrimination based on age, color, disabilities, marital status, national origin, race, religion, and sex. Proposition 5, qualified for the ballot by a signature campaign, would have added 'sexual orientation and Transgender identity' to the code.

Gay rights activists have been pushing for legal discrimination protections since 1976, when Mayor George Sullivan vetoed a city ordinance that would have banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

A similar ordinance was again vetoed in 2009, this time by Mayor Dan Sullivan - George Sullivan's son. The younger Sullivan was re-elected on Tuesday.

'Since the beginning of One Anchorage, we have been on the right side of history,' said One Anchorage officials. 'While the vote totals released to date indicate that Prop 5 did not receive sufficient votes to become law, we know our long-term journey towards full equality for LGBT Alaskans will one day - and soon - become a reality.'

'We see a growing number of Alaskans, who, like us, believe everyone in Anchorage should be treated the same no matter who you are,' continued officials. 'It won't be long before our Gay friends and neighbors have the exact same legal protections as all others in our community.'

'Yes on 5, One Anchorage extends our deepest appreciation to the many dedicated volunteers and donors across Alaska who poured their hearts and souls into this unprecedented grassroots effort. We remain proud of their tireless work and we would not have come so far without them. They are the heroes of our community. The foundation we laid with them over the past year will serve as the basis of future victories for equality,' said officials.

Seattle-based Pride Foundation is a member of the One Anchorage campaign. 'The One Anchorage campaign is a stunning example of a community coming together for the purpose of doing what is right. The coalition shared visible leadership from clergy, former mayors, nonprofit organizations, and key businesses. Attitudes are changing in urban, rural, and remote communities throughout the Northwest,' said Pride Foundation officials.

Doug Exworthy, Pride Foundation's board president, was in Anchorage to help with the One Anchorage campaign in its final day joining other Pride Foundation staff, donors and volunteers along with One Anchorage partners.

'Everyday residents shared an unprecedented amount of time and expertise as volunteers, working tirelessly to build a thriving campaign and community of support. More than 45,000 reminder calls were made on Election Day alone,' he said. 'The passion and commitment of the volunteers working for equality - Gay and straight - is simply inspirational. Though we are waiting for complete clarity from the elections clerk, we hold out hope that justice and equal rights are attainable in our lifetime.'

'Pride Foundation has been honored to work alongside many great community leaders and organizations as a part of the One Anchorage coalition,' said Exworthy. 'While it may not happen today, we're building the road to victory, and we know we will get there soon.'

'We will continue this fight for equality until the headline reads 'Anchorage Wins Historic Vote!'

Prop. 5 was backed by a $350,000 campaign chaired by former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles and former Republican state senator (and gubernatorial nominee) Arliss Sturgulewski. Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, and Quaker clergy supported it.

Opposition came primarily from Evangelicals and Catholics, with the Anchorage Baptist Temple contributing $80,000 of the $95,000 the Vote No campaign raised.

'Many valuable lessons have been learned from this campaign, and we've gained many allies through conversations that were sparked by this campaign,' said Pride Foundation officials. 'Organizers have vowed to continue to work for full equality in Alaska. Pride Foundation will continue to be there providing support along the way. Donor investment in the Advocacy Fund at Pride Foundation has allowed us to support initiatives, such as One Anchorage and the Washington United for Marriage coalition, across the Northwest in communities large and small.'

'Currently, LGBTQ Alaskans live without any safety in employment, financial practices, housing, restaurants, department stores, and other businesses,' said Pride Foundation Executive Director Kris Hermanns. 'Questions remain about the validity of day-of voter registrations and several precincts running out of ballots. Regardless of the outcome, it is important to highlight the incredible people of Anchorage who worked so hard to bring full equality and recognition to LGBTQ people in Anchorage.'

The anti-Prop 5 campaign took aim at the Transgender community in particular. It questioned whether day care centers would be forced to hire 'transvestites' and raised the specter of men entering women's restrooms.

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