Assembly to revisit gay rights ordinance; Prevo vows fight

DISCRIMINATION BAN: Assembly proposal would also cover vets; Rev. Prevo plans fight.

May 12, 2009 

A proposed ordinance to ban discrimination against gays and lesbians in hiring, housing and education will be considered by the Anchorage Assembly next month.

It would also ban discrimination against military veterans.

The ordinance brings to the forefront a gay rights issue that has bitterly divided Anchorage in the past, and at least one local religious leader said Tuesday he plans to battle it again.

Assemblyman Patrick Flynn, a supporter of the ordinance, said it's time Anchorage stands up for all its residents. "People are simply people," he said. "It is wrong to discriminate against them just because the person they happen to love and make a family with is the same gender."

A public hearing on the measure is set for June 9.

Acting Mayor Matt Claman, who could veto the decision if it passes the Assembly, said he supports the measure.

"In an ideal world, the code would just say, 'Thou shall not discriminate for any reason,' " Claman said.

The issue of banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation first surfaced in the mid-1970s. It was initially passed by the Assembly, but was vetoed by former Mayor George Sullivan and set off years of sometimes harsh political argument.

A similar code provision was enacted again in the early 1990s, but was struck from the code by another Assembly vote in 1993.

State law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual preference. But the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that state employment benefits must be extended to the partners of gay state employees.

The Anchorage ordinance introduced Tuesday adds to the city's existing anti-discrimination code which already protects people based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, age, or physical or mental disability.

"I'd like to think that we've matured enough as a community that this won't be a big deal," Flynn said Tuesday before the assembly meeting. "But I could be wrong."

But the Rev. Jerry Prevo, pastor of the Anchorage Baptist Temple, said the proposal is an example of one part of the community trying to force its values on everyone.

"It's an issue that the homosexual community is using to force homosexuality on the people," said Prevo, who also fought the first sexual orientation protections in the 1970s. He said the sponsors of the current ordinance are trying to pry open the door to broader gay rights, which he said most Alaskans don't want.

Prevo said he plans a public campaign to fight the proposed change, including taking it to the pulpit this Sunday to tell his congregation about it.

Prevo said he thinks veterans were included in the ordinance just to distract from the "sexual orientation" issue. He warned that making the proposed law could open employers and landlords to a cascade of lawsuits.

"If I were a veteran, I'd be upset that they are linking the two together," Prevo said.

Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Alaska, helped write the proposal. He said it contains a provision that allows organizations such as the Baptist Temple to legally refuse to hire people because their sexual preference conflicts with religious beliefs.

"It's unfortunate when organizations want to muddy the water and misrepresent what an actual ordinance does or says," Mittman said. "People should go to the ordinance themselves and read it."


Find Megan Holland online at adn.com/contact/mholland or call 257-4343.

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