Over the past couple of weeks, Bent Alaska has been publishing some of the testimony of people who testified to the Anchorage Assembly in favor of the Anchorage equal rights ordinance AO 2009-64, which if passed will grant equal protection from discrimination to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans people who live, work, and/or visit the Municipality of Anchorage. And I realized, well, although I’ve written a fair amount on my blog about the ordinance battle, and even posted the full text of the letter I wrote to the Assembly in early June, I somehow hadn’t gotten around to posting the testimony I gave at the Assembly on June 16. So that became one of my tasks this evening: to find my prepared testimony, & put it online.
I couldn’t have timed it better: earlier today I learned that Assembly Member Dan Coffey — in whose district I live — has placed a resolution on the agenda for the August 11 Assembly meeting which would establish a task force to study the issue. For a year. After we’ve just been through six long nights of public testimony stretched out over the summer.
This isn’t the first time a task force has been suggested. It came up in some of the questions Assembly members asked during the first night of public testimony way back on June 9. The idea seemed to inform the proposal by Assembly Chair Debbie Ossiander, in her S-1 version of the ordinance, to authorize the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission to track complaints of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression (even while permitting most such discrimination to continue unabated).
My testimony, given on June 16, the same meeting at which Ossiander’s version was presented, directly addressed whether a task force was needed. Here it is as I wrote it.
Thank you for hearing my testimony.
My name is Melissa Green. I am an Anchorage resident.
I was part of two major research efforts in the 1980s to document sexual orientation bias in Alaska. One in 10: A Profile of Alaska’s Lesbian & Gay Community published in 1986 reported on the results of a statewide survey of 734 lesbian, gay, and bisexual Alaskans. Identity Reports: Sexual Orientation Bias in Alaska was published in 1989 and included three papers, including “Closed Doors,” a survey of Anchorage employers and landlords; and “Prima Facie,” which documented 84 actual cases of of violence, harassment, and discrimination due to sexual orientation bias. Copies of both reports are now on the Internet at Henkimaa.com — that’s H-E-N-K-I-M-A-A dot com. I’ve also prepared copies on CD for all members of the Assembly, as well as hard copies of “Prima Facie,” which I will give to the clerk when I complete my testimony.Some of the relevant findings from both reports:
Of the 734 respondents to One in 10:
- 61 percent reported being victimized by violence and harassment while in Alaska because of their sexual orientation;
- 39 percent reported discrimination in employment, housing, and loans/credit; and
- 33 percent reported discrimination from services and institutions.
From the “Closed Doors” component of Identity Reports:
- 31 percent of the 191 employers in the survey said they would not hire or promote or would fire someone they had reason to believe was homosexual.
- 20 percent of the 178 landlords in the survey said they would not rent to or would evict someone they had reason to believe was homosexual.
From the “Prima Facie” component of Identity Reports:
- 84 actual instances of antigay bias, discrimination, harassment, or violence (including three murders) were recorded involving 30 men and 21 women. 64 of the cases we documented were in Anchorage.
- Victims were predominately gay men or lesbians, but also included heterosexuals who were erroneously assumed to be gay or lesbian.
It was suggested last week that we need a “study” or a “task force” to decide if we need this ordinance. The studies have been done. The testimony you’ve already heard about discrimination updates those studies and shows that sexual orientation discrimination is still going on today. And that’s not even including the people who have not testified because there’s nothing to protect them from more discrimination for just showing up and telling you their stories. Do we really need another study, or a task force, to discover again what we have already know? There are at least 108 examples of other cities with similar ordinances, which not only continue to function, but do it better because their citizens do not suffer from unfair discrimination. I ask you: how much discrimination is tolerable? What is the threshold for justice? — how many stories do we have to bring to you before you stop passing it on to the future, and establish protections for the people who are being discriminated against today?
Please: pass a full version of this ordinance.
No, a task force wasn’t needed then; and nearly two months later, it still isn’t. The task force proposal is just another means to delay acting in accordance with the public policy the Municipality of Anchorage purports to adhere to, as written in Anchorage Municipal Code 5.10.010:
The public policy of the municipality is declared to be equal opportunity for all persons.
Is this really the Muni’s public policy? Or is it not? Decide, and vote.
* * *
More about Dan Coffey’s task force resolution, starting with the text of the resolution itself:
- AR NO. 2009–186. “A resolution of the Anchorage Municipal Assembly authorizing a citizen task force to review the nature and extent of discrimination based on sexual orientation and the potential for conflict with constitutional rights.” Submitted by Assembly Member Dan Coffey for reading August 11, 2009.
- 8/6/09. “Coffey says city needs gay rights task force — NO DELAY: But backers and critics want to see assembly vote on proposed ordinance” by Don Hunter (Anchorage Daily News)
Incidentally, Don Hunter’s ADN story is incorrect in stating that there are “three versions of the original sexual orientation ordinance” for consideration by the Anchorage Assembly. In fact, there are four versions: on July 23, Assembly Member Patrick Flynn announced on his blog that he had written a new draft, version S-2.
Here are all four versions of Ordinance 64:
- AO No. 2009-64. Original draft submitted on behalf of then-Acting Mayor Matt Claman, for reading May 12, 2009.
- AO No. 2009-64 (S). First substitution version submitted on behalf of then-Acting Mayor Matt Claman, for reading June 9, 2009.
- AO No. 2009-64 (S-1). Second substitution version submitted by Assembly Chair Debbie Ossiander, for reading June 16, 2009.
- AO No. 2009-64 (S-2). Third substitution version submitted by Assembly Member Patrick Flynn, for reading August 11, 2009.
I’ll be writing a post comparing the four versions over the next couple of days. I’ll just say for now that I consider Ossiander’s S-1 version the worst of the four (it permits discrimination in private employment, and permits discrimination on the basis of gender identity across the board). Flynn’s S-2 is the best, and is the one I support: it’s the most clear both in its anti-discrimination provisions and in its language about religious exemptions, and addresses specific issues some had about employees of religious organizations such as Sunday School teachers and bus drivers.
I urge you to throw your support behind S-2, too. Let your Assembly representative(s) and Mayor Sullivan know which one you support.