Focus on the Facts: Myths and Facts about the Ordinance


Fear has long played a significant role in efforts to oppose movements for equal rights in our country. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, those who objected to the suffragist movement stoked fears that if women were granted the right to vote they would lose their "natural" feminine qualities. In the 1950s, Jerry Falwell argued that integration would destroy the white race. And today in Anchorage, there are allegations that by ensuring that our city protects lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Alaskans from discrimination in employment and housing, we will somehow unleash a virtual tsunami of disruptive and illegal behavior that will threaten the safety of women and children. 

Fear is an understandable human reaction to the prospect of change. However, it important that in considering Anchorage's future and the kind of city we should strive to be, that we base our decisions on facts—not unfounded & unproven fears. To this end, Equality Works would like to focus on the FACTS of the proposed ordinance to update Anchorage's equal rights law to include LGBT people. 

On the Nature of the Ordinance

A common misinterpretation of the proposed amendment is that it will grant Anchorage's LGBT citizens rights that no one else has. The reality is that Anchorage already has a nondiscrimination law. It protects people from discrimination on the basis of age, disability, marital status, nationality, sex, race, color, and religion in the realms of employment, housing, public accommodations, financial services, and municipal business. Anyone who suspects that they have been discriminated against on any of these bases can file a complaint with our Equal Rights Commission, which by law is empowered to investigate, mediate between parties, or pursue legal action depending on the situation. However, because sexual orientation is not included in that list of protected classes, the Equal Rights Commission is not allowed to investigate such cases of suspected discrimination. 

Supporters of this ordinance are only asking that sexual orientation be included in the list of protected classes for a law that is already on the books. So when opponents argue that it will grant LGBT people "special rights," they are misrepresenting the ordinance itself—which is simply amending a law that already exists—and intentionally or unintentionally misleading the public. 

Nothing "special" is being created or added that will apply to LGBT people alone. Equality Works believes that ALL persons should be treated equal in the public sphere. 

On the Effects on Business, Workplace, & Our Community

While much has been made out of how the proposed ordinance would alter workplace behavior, Anchorage's nondiscrimination law has never prohibited businesses from establishing standards of conduct and behavior suitable for the marketplace and other professional settings as long as those rules of conduct are equally enforced. We doubt that the majority of Fortune 500 companies, including some with a local presence—such as BP, Alaska Airlines, and Wells Fargo—would have voluntarily adopted internal policies to protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation/gender identity if those policies were proven to be bad for business or to result in increased rates of workplace misconduct. On the contrary, these corporations understand that LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policies help to recruit and retain a more diverse, talented, and productive workforce. 

No clause in the proposed ordinance requires an employer, business owner, or realtor to tolerate anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, who behaves in an inappropriate, disruptive or unprofessional manner, including in a restroom or other facilities. 

On Individual Religious Rights & Religious Institutions

The Bill of Rights promises every American the freedom to practice their religion and express their opinion without persecution. These promises are two of the building blocks of our democracy. The Municipality of Anchorage recognizes those rights by including "religion" as a protected class in its nondiscrimination laws. This means it is illegal to discriminate against an individual because of their religious beliefs. The current law also includes language that allows churches and other religious organizations to limit access or admission to those who share their beliefs. 

The Equality Works coalition is made up of people from a variety of spiritual backgrounds and we would never propose a law that infringes on our freedom of religion. At the same time, we believe that no one should be denied employment, refused public service, or denied a lease simply because the proprietor doesn't agree with the partner they've chosen to spend their life with. It's a matter of mutual respect. 

 On Gender Identity/Expression

In the proposed ordinance, sexual orientation is defined as "perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or gender expression and identity." As used in this definition, 'gender expression and identity' means having or being perceived as having a self-image, appearance, or behavior different from that traditionally associated with sex assigned to that person at birth.

While sexual orientation is the phrase used to describe people's primary attraction, gender identity refers to a person's internal sense of being male or female, regardless of their sex assigned at birth. And gender expression refers to how people express that identity. In many cases, when people are perceived to be gay or lesbian, it is not because they have "come out" or have been seen with a partner of the same-sex. They are perceived to be lesbian or gay because they express their gender identity different from what is traditionally expected. A gay man can be harassed for being gay without ever telling his coworkers that he is—and so can a straight man who isn't deemed sufficiently "masculine." This is one of the reasons why it is important to protect people from discrimination on the basis of their gender identity/expression--because no one—straight or gay—should be treated unfairly in work or the public sphere because they don't conform to rigid stereotypes. 

Equality Works believes the small minority of transgender people in our community whose gender identity does not match that of the sex they were assigned at birth deserve protection. They are people who have served in our military, who drive our taxis, who have children and families to provide for and they are no less deserving of employment and housing than anyone else. While some in our community try to paint transgender people as a dangerous threat, transgender men and women are far more likely to be the targets of violent harassment and discrimination than those who would refuse them equal opportunity under the law. 

Every civil rights law creates some discomfort in a workplace.  Title VII discomfited those who did not wish to work with women, racial minorities or people of other faiths.  The Americans with Disabilities Act required employees who felt uncomfortable around people with disabilities to nonetheless come to work and do their jobs. By revising the city's non-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity, the Anchorage Municipal Assembly is making the policy determination that the ability of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people to have equal access to employment and public accommodations will make Anchorage a better place to live and work.


Decisions regarding the fate of our city should be made based on accurate information, not on misinterpretations and exaggerations rooted in fear. The Equality Works coalition is committed to participating in an honest and respectful dialogue in hopes of building a broad base of support for our efforts to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Alaskans from discrimination. We believe that if all interested parties make the same commitment our community can emerge from this vital discussion with a greater respect for our diversity, a better sense of the values we share, and pride in being leaders in Alaska when it comes to protecting all our residents and workers from unfair treatment.


the problem child said...

What you ask for is natural and reasonable. Let equality reign! You should have had this many, many years ago.

R2Me2 said...

Well said!

E. Ross said...

Thanks - this is the 3rd time we've tried to get this protection, and each time Prevo has pulled strings to get it dumped.

I heard that someone designated Anchorage a "world class city" this week ... I wonder if any of the other "world class cities" has no LGBT equal rights.

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