Aces hockey analogy puts Prop. 5 in perspective

COMPASS: Other points of view

By JEN KOHOUTMarch 28, 2012 

I've been reading with interest the dueling ecclesiastic opinion pieces about whether or not Jesus -- assuming he were a registered Anchorage voter, of course -- would darken the "yes" or "no" oval when he got to ballot proposition No. 5. The proposition that asks "shall the current Municipal Code sections providing legal protections against discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, age, physical disability, and mental disability be amended to include protections on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender identity?"

Personally, I've got my own guess as to how Jesus might vote on April 3. But as I sit here watching ESPN, I'm thinking that a more apt hypothetical might be found in the sports arena. Ice hockey, perhaps. Admittedly, I don't know the first thing about hockey; I've been to exactly one game in the 21 years that I've lived in Anchorage. But several of my work colleagues are diehard fans of the Alaska Aces. The kind of fans that have celebratory Kelly Cup photos in their cubicles and sulk at their desks the day after a loss. The kind of fans that I'm guessing, if asked, could care less what a player's race, religion or sexual orientation were as long as he helped the team win.

But my hockey hypothetical is like an open-net goal, a bit too easy. There's a reason that most of us live in neighborhoods filled with people who look like us. Same goes for most workplaces. Even most church pews. We're comfortable with people who look, act, and pray like us. It's human nature. It's also a drain on the human capacity to be bigger than our own experience, to think more broadly than our narrow window on the world. Over time, our country and our communities have adopted rules to help move us toward that more expansive place. In the short term, these rules also serve to minimize the damage caused to others and to ourselves when we turn our backs on someone because we're uncomfortable with what we don't understand. Ballot proposition 5 is a small step in this direction.

Several years ago I was sweating my way through a panel interview for a fairly high profile job here in Anchorage. I'd managed to wade through the opening volley of questions when one of the panel members commented on my running career. I relaxed and chatted for a couple minutes about the joys of running and then we got back to discussing my qualifications for the job. After I got home, it dawned on me that my resume didn't mention that I ran, and as much as my ego would prefer otherwise, my running career was far too mediocre to be noticed by anyone. The only way the interviewer would have know that I was a runner was through the Internet. So out of curiosity, I turned on the computer, typed in my name, and hit search. I'll be darned if the first entry that appeared wasn't my finish time in the annual Anchorage Gay Pride 5-K.

I didn't get the job. A decision which I'm 99 percent sure had nothing to do with my participation in a "gay" event but instead was based on my lack of experience for the position. Which is fine. That's the way hiring decisions should be made. Because if I had been the best candidate for that job or the best defender in the Mountain Division, for that matter, the fact that my partner's name is Karen should be irrelevant.

Jen Kohout is happily employed by an organization that prohibits discrimination on the basis of her sexual orientation. She continues to run albeit more slowly each passing year.

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