Our view: Gay rights issue goes to ballot

December 15, 2011 

Those who support including sexual orientation and transgender identity in Anchorage's anti-discrimination law have collected the signatures necessary to get the question on the ballot.

Come April 3, we'll see if they can collect the votes.

Old foes are drawing old lines in this battle, which in Anchorage goes back at least to the 1970s. Two mayors named Sullivan have vetoed assembly-passed versions of gay rights legislation. The most recent, Dan Sullivan, has said he thinks the ballot box is a good place for the issue.

The vote may settle for keeps whether it will be illegal in Anchorage to discriminate against gay and transgender people in hiring and housing.

The vote certainly will be a measure of where Anchorage stands on the issue. Advocates say Anchorage has changed, along with other parts of the country, in accepting gays. Foes say no, that what passes for acceptance and inclusion has more to do with political correctness and a permissive culture than any strides toward equality.

There has been change. This vote should measure how much, and perhaps how deep it runs.

No doubt there will be debates and a lively campaign. That's democracy. And while some supporters of the ballot measure argue that this is a matter of fundamental human rights, subject neither to vote nor decree, in reality such rights are secured only when a majority of voters agree. The Bill of Rights we celebrated Thursday didn't fall out of the sky. Americans wrote and ratified those amendments.

We'll be spared the long, repetitive testimony of the last gay-rights battle waged before the Anchorage Assembly in 2009. Passionate people will testify, all right, but not with numbing, three-minute echoes in a parade that strained patience and common sense.

There will be no mayoral veto. The vote of the people isn't subject to one.

A vote of the people will pack more force than either an assembly vote or a mayoral veto. Let's decide.

BOTTOM LINE: Gay-rights signatures are there. Now let's find out about the votes.

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