Assembly makes no move to override gay rights veto

LOBBIED: Ossiander is swamped by e-mails and calls but remains against the ordinance.

August 25, 2009 

The first opportunity for the Anchorage Assembly to override Mayor Dan Sullivan’s veto of an ordinance banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation went by Tuesday night without action.

Sullivan vetoed the anti-discrimination ordinance a week ago. Under city law, the Assembly has 21 days from that time to consider an override.

The measure would guarantee equal rights in employment, housing, finance and public accommodations for gays, lesbians and transgender people.

It passed with seven votes in support. Eight are needed to override a veto, and there’s no indication anyone has changed his or her mind.

Assembly Chairwoman Debbie Ossiander, considered the most likely swing vote, said before Tuesday night’s Assembly meeting that she still opposes the measure as passed on Aug. 11.

The issue drew hundreds of people on both sides of the debate to a series of public hearings this summer.

Ossiander was thought to be a likely yes vote on the ordinance and has said she might support a different version. But she said she objects to the ordinance as passed, because she thinks it may impose onerous conditions on businesses, including requirements for unisex bathrooms.

In a telephone interview before the meeting, Ossiander said she has been inundated with e-mails and phone calls, almost all urging her to reconsider and vote to override Sullivan’s veto.

“I’m apparently now on several national e-mail chains, because I’m hearing from people all over the country,” Ossiander said.

“I’ve probably had 200 contacts a day, combined e-mails and phone calls,” she said. “It’s been pretty exhausting, because I’ve been trying to take the time to really talk to people.”

Ossiander said, however, that she still opposes the measure as written.

“At this point, I can’t amend it, as much as I’d like to,” she said. “It’s either take this or leave it.”

Contact reporter Don Hunter at or 257-4349.

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