I finally completed my letter to the Anchorage Assembly today. It went to all Assembly members as well as to Acting Mayor Matt Claman. (Come to think of it, maybe I should send a copy to Mayor-elect Dan Sullivan too. Whaddaya think?)
We’re one week away from ordinance testimony & possibly an Assembly vote. It’s time to write those letters to the Anchorage Assembly. I’ve done mine, now it’s your turn!
Your letter doesn’t need to be as long and involved as mine — I am famously wordy. There are some great suggestions for writing a letter by Equality Works’ Tiffany McClain at this post at Bent Alaska. Equality Works has also put together an excellent summary of facts about the ordinance which address some of the common misconceptions (or downright fabrications) that people who are fighting equal rights are bringing up. Read it here. Need Assembly contact info? Follow this link. There’s more info about the Anchorage Municipal Assembly at the Assembly’s website.
Letter in support of
Anchorage equal rights ordinance,
My name is Melissa Green. I have been a resident of Anchorage since 1982 (excepting a three-year period in Seattle), am an 18-year employee of the Justice Center at University of Alaska Anchorage, and have lived in Assembly District 4 since 2001.
I am writing in support of the proposed ordinance AO 2009-64 which would add “sexual orientation” and “veteran status” to those classes already included in Title V, Anchorage’s equal rights code.
I have been following the debate on the ordinance closely, and am disturbed by the misinformation being propounded about the ordinance by certain parties. For example, there have been efforts by Rev. Jerry Prevo and the Anchorage Baptist Temple, both through a letter faxed to “community leaders” on May 15 and through the website sosanchorage.com (and related television advertising) to confuse Anchorage residents about the definition of the term “sexual orientation” — both the common legal definition, and the definition actually contained in the ordinance. In both letter and website, it has been suggested that passage of the ordinance will somehow grant privileges to practitioners of a whole host of sexual practices listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV), which in fact have nothing to do with the ordinance and which are in some cases — for example, pedophilia and necrophilia — illegal under Alaska statutes and federal law. (A bill outlawing zoophilia, also known as bestiality, is currently under consideration in the Alaska Legislature, and has already passed the House.) The letter, website, and ads also appear to be at the root of frantic claims that passage of the ordinance will somehow lead to the Boy Scouts being forced to hire homosexual scoutmasters, in spite of a U.S. Supreme Court decision which absolutely grants the Boy Scouts, as a private organization, the right to discriminate (under constitutional “freedom of association” guarantees); and similar claims that churches will be forced to hire homosexual Sunday school teachers, in spite of religious exemptions to the contrary that are built into the ordinance (not to mention the Constitution).
I understand that you as a member of the Assembly are under considerable pressure from the public opinion against the ordinance based on these misleading, red herring arguments. I urge you to base your vote on facts, rather than the false issues that have been raised.
Another common misconception that I’ve heard bandied about is that there’s no need for the ordinance because there’s no proven history of discrimination in Alaska or Anchorage based on sexual orientation. This is false. I myself have experienced job discrimination when I was fired from an Anchorage bookstore in 1984 for being a lesbian — an incident about which I was interviewed on Channel 11 News, and also wrote about in detail on my blog (http://www.henkimaa.com/2009/05/13/channel-11-interview-part-2/). I know of other cases that are more recent, and I hope some of the victims of that discrimination will overcome their fears of suffering further discrimination and will testify on June 9.
It’s been pointed out that the government maintains no statistics on sexual orientation discrimination because it’s currently not illegal to discriminate on that basis. But it’s not entirely correct that there are no statistics at all. I was part of two research efforts in the 1980s to document the sexual orientation bias in Alaska. I was principal writer for One in 10: A Profile of Alaska’s Lesbian & Gay Community (Anchorage, AK: Identity, 1986), which reported on the results of a survey of 734 lesbian, gay, and bisexual Alaskans on a survey of 100 questions on various aspects of our lives, including experience of discrimination, harassment, and violence. I was coauthor, with Jay Brause, of the second, Identity Reports: Sexual Orientation Bias in Alaska (Anchorage, AK: Identity, 1989), which comprised three papers: “Coming Out: Issues Surrounding Disclosure of Sexual Orientation” (Green), based primarily on data from One in 10; “Closed Doors: Sexual Orientation Bias in the Anchorage Housing and Employment Markets” (Brause), based on a randomly selected, anonymous survey of 191 employers and 178 landlords in Anchorage; and “Prima Facie: Documented Cases of Sexual Orientation Bias in Alaska” (Green), which presented 84 cases from interviews, newspaper accounts, court records, and other documents of violence, harassment, and discrimination in Alaska on the basis of actual or assumed sexual orientation from 1975 to 1987. Copies of both reports are available in area libraries, including the Loussac and the UAA/APU Consortium Library.
I have attached a copy of the executive summary of the latter report to this email for your information. Some of the relevant findings from both reports:
Of the 734 respondents to One in 10 (surveyed in 1985):
- 61 percent reported having been victimized by violence and harassment while in Alaska because of their sexual orientation, predominately verbal abuse but also including threats, police harassment, property damage, and physical violence;
- 39 percent reported having suffered from discrimination because of sexual orientation in employment, housing, and loans/credit; and
- 33 percent reported having suffered from discrimination because of sexual orientation from services and institutions.
- 23 percent believed that they would be fired or laid off if their current employer or supervisor learned of their sexual orientation.
- 53 percent agreed with the statement that “I feel that my community is unsafe to live in as an openly gay man or lesbian.”
From the “Closed Doors” component of Identity Reports (based on a 1987 survey):
- 31 percent of the 191 employers who responded to the survey said they would either not hire, promote, or would fire someone they had reason to believe was homosexual.
- 20 percent of the 178 landlords who responded to the survey said they would either not rent to or would evict someone they had reason to believe was homosexual.
From the “Prima Facie” component of Identity Reports (based on interviews and documentary evidence through 1987)
- 84 actual instances of antigay bias, discrimination, harassment, or violence (including three murders) were recorded involving 30 men and 21 women in the Municipality of Anchorage (64 cases), the City and Borough of Juneau (4), the Fairbanks North Star Borough (6), and 10 other localities in Alaska (10).
- Victims were predominately gay men or lesbians, but also included heterosexuals who were erroneously assumed to be gay or lesbian.
- Of the 42 cases of employment, housing, public accommodations, and business practices discrimination from personal (as opposed to documentary) testimony, 32 were evaluated by a former intake investigator with the Alaska Human Rights Commission as being jurisdictional under AS 18.80 (Alaska’s human rights statutes) if AS 18.80 had included “sexual orientation” as a protected class.
Both One in 10 and Identity Reports were conducted by a nonprofit under grants from the Chicago Resource Foundation (with additional grant monies, in the case of One in 10, from the Anchorage Department of Health and Human Services) because, failing the ability of the government to compile statistics, it was only through private efforts that sexual orientation discrimination in Alaska could be documented. Results of Identity Reports were presented in 1989 to the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission, and played a role in the 1992-1993 equal rights ordinance battle. But its findings have been ignored and forgotten since, as have those of One in 10.
Regrettably, there is no similar documentation for the last 20 years of the sexual orientation bias and discrimination in Anchorage. But in spite of 20 years of growth in public tolerance and acceptance of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender/transsexual people, discrimination still occurs, and equal protection in Anchorage from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is still warranted.
I ask you to vote to extend the same protections to us, as are already extended to Anchorage citizens on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, age, and physical or mental disability.
Melissa S. Green
Attachment: A Summary of Identity Reports: Sexual Orientation Bias in Alaska [executive summary] by Jay K. Brause and Melissa S. Green, 1989 [filename ID-reports-exec-sum.pdf]