City and Borough of Juneau Assembly member Greg Smith smiles Thursday afternoon while walking across the rainbow crosswalk recently repainted in downtown Juneau. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

City and Borough of Juneau Assembly member Greg Smith smiles Thursday afternoon while walking across the rainbow crosswalk recently repainted in downtown Juneau. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Faces of Pride: Assembly member Greg Smith

“For me it’s about acceptance, respect and understanding where people are in their lives.”

Editor’s note: This is the second story in a four-part series during each week of June for Pride Month that features prominent LGBTQ+ residents in Juneau that have made a positive impact on the capital city.

Greg Smith says he feels lucky to have not experienced major discrimination as a member of the LGBTQ+ community in Juneau and, as a City and Borough of Juneau Assembly member, he said he’s determined to build a future where other residents can say the same.

“Our community is so strong and vibrant, and there are people that are doing the work for the LGBTQ+ community and I am so thankful for it,” he said Thursday afternoon while enjoying a sunny afternoon at Marine Park in downtown Juneau.

Smith, who was born and raised in Juneau, is in his second term with the Assembly, first being elected in 2019.

He said it’s important elected officials represent the community as a whole and being a part of the LGBTQ+ community makes him think differently about how certain policies might impact that community specifically.

“For me it’s about acceptance, respect and understanding where people are in their lives, and I think it’s important to be aware of it and take it into consideration when you’re making policy decisions,” he said.

The city and recent Assemblies have made major strides in the past decade for the Juneau LGBTQ+ community. Just last November the city received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2022 Municipality Equality Index scorecard for the second year in a row.

The assessment explores municipal governments’ inclusivity to LGBTQ+ people in the community it serves. Of the more than 500 cities assessed, each was rated by its non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and leadership on LGBTQ+ equality.

Smith said the score indicates Juneau has put in work and is moving in the right direction. He pointed to an ordinance the Assembly passed in 2016 as a major milestone toward inclusivity and putting protections into policy.

In 2016 the Assembly voted to make Juneau the second city in the state to adopt an ordinance barring discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression. Today, CBJ continues to be one of the few municipalities across Alaska that have codified protections for LGBTQ+ people, joined by Anchorage, Ketchikan and Sitka.

Greg wasn’t a member of the Assembly at the time, but he assisted prior Assembly members, such as now Juneau Democratic Sen. Jesse Kiehl, to ensure it crossed the finish line.

“It was really powerful when it passed, and it was kind of like a show by the community and the body of the Assembly that people should not be discriminated against in Juneau,” Smith said.

However, that’s not the case for the state of Alaska, which currently does not have any codified nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people in the state, despite legislation repeatedly being introduced in each legislative session for more than a decade including this most recent session. The Alaska State Commission for Human Rights also last year scaled back its investigation of LGBTQ+ discrimination complaints for categories such as housing and financing, and is now seeking to allow religious and nonprofit organizations to discriminate in their employment practices.

Smith said he hopes to see the statewide situation change soon.

“To me it feels like an inherent protection that should be part of our society,” he said.

Smith said he thinks Juneau is special in the way he felt growing up here, when the community as a whole was generally respectful and valued the diversity of the people that live in the city despite the differences they might have.

He said some people might not know he is a part of the LGBTQ+ community and he’s not afraid to be open about it, but he hopes people remember the other qualities he and other Assembly members have that make them good policymakers for the community.

“It’s a part of who I am, and it plays into a part of my thinking and life experience, but it’s not all of who I am,” he said. “For me, I want to be an Assembly member who is hard working, who has values and vision for the community — and maybe it’s a consideration — but I don’t think it needs to be the main one for people.”

Looking to the future, Smith said he is open and excited to take steps to further Juneau’s inclusivity for the LGBTQ+ community. He encouraged residents to share changes they’d like to see as well.

“I hope we can continue to strengthen an environment where people can be who they really are at their core, and feel safe and comfortable to do that in whatever way that is free of discrimination, and to have the space and support to live their life normally and safely,” he said.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807.

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 June 8

Here’s what to expect this week.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Man dies after being struck by truck while laying in drive-through lane near Mendenhall post office

Armando Sanchez, 38, struck during early morning hours of June 1; JPD notified of death Tuesday.

Curtis Davis sharpens a spike at his makeshift campsite near Juneau International Airport on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
With no official place to camp, homeless and neighborhoods alike are suffering miseries

Complaints to JPD nearly double, social agencies seek “safety zone,” many campers just want peace.

Alaska Supreme Court Justice Peter Maassen receives applause from his fellow justices and members of the Alaska Legislature during the annual State of the Judiciary address on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, at the Alaska State Capitol. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Gov. Dunleavy will be asked to pick fourth state Supreme Court justice

Applications being accepted to replace Peter Maassen, who reaches mandatory retirement age next year

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Monday, June 10, 2024

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

Pins supporting the repeal of ranked choice voting are seen on April 20 at the Republican state convention in Anchorage. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska ranked choice repeal measure wins first round of legal challenge, but trial awaits

Correction: The initial version of this article incorrectly listed Alaskans for Better… Continue reading

Juneau resident Ajah Rose Bishop, 21, suffered severe spinal injuries in a single-vehicle accident early Saturday morning. (GoFundMe fundraiser photo)
Woman breaks spine in single-vehicle collision on Egan Drive early Saturday morning

21-year-old Juneau resident medivaced to Anchorage, online fundraising effort underway.

Shannan Greene (left) and Sharyn Augustine hold signs on April 27 urging residents to sign recall petitions for Juneau Board of Education President Deedie Sorensen and Vice President Emil Mackey due to their roles in a budget crisis for the current fiscal year. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
School board recall petitions submitted; supporters of Saturday cruise ship ban need more signatures

Third initiative seeking to repeal default by-mail elections also has 10 days to get more signers.

Most Read