Anchorage Assembly passes LGBT anti-discrimination laws

ANCHORAGE — Anchorage Assembly members have passed an ordinance making it illegal in the city to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Alaska Dispatch News reports the assembly voted 9-2 late Tuesday night to pass the new local civil rights ordinance.

Mayor Ethan Berkowitz says he does not plan to veto the measure.

The vote comes after a lengthy debate on balancing exemptions for religious groups and protections for gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people in housing, employment and public accommodations.

Members of the public testified on the ordinance earlier this month, which prompted emotional responses from both sides of the issue. Assembly member Bill Starr, who voted with assemblywoman Amy Demboski against the measure, says the Assembly received about 500 emails over the weekend on the ordinance.

Some members of the audience wore red shirts to show their opposition. They say they are planning to seek a referendum to put the issue to voters.

The debate was coming to a close when Starr put on a red shirt himself and walked up to the podium to testify.

“The reason I’m doing this quite frankly because I feel that I identify closer to these folks in red then I do with you folks right now,” Starr said. “Two and a half, three weeks we’re taking on a major topic that’s been fleshed out since 1993 in this community and you want to do it in three weeks with no vote of the people.”

KTUU reports there were 17 amendments before council members in a meeting that lasted well into the night. KTVA reported the approved changes included an amendment by Councilman Patrick Flynn, specifying that the law cannot violate rights outlined in the Constitution.

A change by Councilman Bill Evans was also approved, stating the law would be in line the Supreme Court’s decision in a First Amendment rights case, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School vs. EEOC. The unanimous opinion states that a ministerial exception “ensures that the authority to select and control who will minister to the faithful is the church’s alone.”

The final change proposed by Assembly Chair Dick Traini set a preamble to the law stating LGBT discrimination is an issue in the city. The amendment had been voted down, but passed before the full vote on the measure.

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of May 18

Here’s what to expect this week.

Juneau high school seniors Edward Hu of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé (left), Elizabeth Djajalie of Thunder Mountain High School (center) and Kenyon Jordan of Yaaḵoosgé Daakahídi Alternative High School. (Photos of Hu and Jordan by Juneau Empire staff, photo of Djajalie by Victor Djajalie)
Senior Spotlight 2024: Three top students take very different paths to graduation stage

Ceremonies for Juneau’s three high schools take place Sunday.

The entrance road to Bartlett Regional Hospital. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file photo)
Bartlett Regional Hospital looking at eliminating or trimming six ‘non-core’ programs to stabilize finances

Rainforest Recovery Center, autism therapy, crisis stabilization, hospice among programs targeted.

A king salmon. (Ryan Hagerty/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Biden administration advances bid to list Gulf of Alaska king salmon as endangered or threatened

Experts say request could restrict activity affecting river habitats such as road, home construction

Mayor Beth Weldon (left), Deputy Mayor Michelle Bonnet Hale and Juneau Assembly member Paul Kelly discussion proposals for next year’s mill rate during an Assembly Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday night. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Assembly members support lower 10.04 mill rate ahead of final vote on next year’s CBJ budget

Initial proposal called for raising current rate of 10.16 mills to 10.32 mills.

Dave Scanlan, general manager of Eaglecrest Ski Area, speaks to the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Finance Committee on April 13, 2023. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Dave Scanlan forced out as Eaglecrest’s general manager, says decision ‘came as a complete shock to me’

Resort’s leader for past 7 years says board seeking a “more office-process, paper-oriented” manager.

The entrance to the Alaska Gasline Development Corp.’s Anchorage office is seen on Aug. 11, 2023. The state-owned AGDC is pushing for a massive project that would ship natural gas south from the North Slope, liquefy it and send it on tankers from Cook Inlet to Asian markets. The AGDC proposal is among many that have been raised since the 1970s to try commercialize the North Slope’s stranded natural gas. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Eight young Alaskans sue to block proposed trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline

Plaintiffs cite climate change that harms their access to fish, wildlife and natural resources.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Tuesday, May 21, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read