Our view: Equal rights

Yes on Prop 5 is a vote for justice and hard-won values

March 31, 2012 

There is no justification for discrimination against law-abiding, contributing members of the community. It does not matter whether you personally approve of their sex, color, religion, marital status, age, physical or mental abilities or country of origin. This is a set of values that did not come quickly or easily to the United States of America, but over time, and through the diligent, conscientious and oftentimes heroic efforts of average Americans, and frequently in the face of bitter opposition over decades or even centuries, we got there.

But the job is not yet done, at least not in Anchorage. On Tuesday, you will have the chance to move us a step closer to ending unjustified discrimination against a minority of our citizens.

Proposition 5 on the municipal ballot will ask whether we should prohibit discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender identity. We hope and expect the community will answer with a resounding yes.

The individual character of people is what matters, not whom you know, what your parents did or how you look. If you can honorably carry your responsibility as a citizen, and not cause trouble for others, then what you do with the rest of your life is your own business.

If we all could live up to that ideal, prejudice would have no place and there would be no need for anti-discrimination laws. Unfortunately, something deeply embedded in human nature too often leads people to fear, and to reject, those who are different simply because of their difference.

Opponents of this measure, some with good intentions, have tried to make this seem a complicated question.

Is sexual orientation an innate human characteristic like sex or race? What if it is just a "lifestyle" choice? Why should that be protected from discrimination, they ask.

Is religious belief a choice? How about whether or not to get married? Or risking terrible injury in war? These are unquestionably lifestyle choices, so shouldn't we feel free to discriminate against Baptists, single women or soldiers in wheelchairs?

What about freedom of religion? Shouldn't you be able to discriminate against people if rejecting them is a tenet of your religious belief? Many of us are old enough to remember when the Bible was used as justification to discriminate against black Americans in the South. God does not want the races to mix, we heard from many a pulpit. In some religions women are not the equals of men. Should those believers, in furtherance of their heartfelt convictions, be able to discriminate against your wife, your daughter?

The opponents say: But if we aren't free to discriminate, then we are accepting people who live in a way we personally find disagreeable or immoral.

We believe your ability to approve or disapprove of your neighbors is and should be limited, just as their right to approve or disapprove of you should be. If they are law-abiding, contributing members of the community, they have met a reasonable standard and should merit your "acceptance," at least to the extent of treating them like anyone else and leaving them alone to pursue their own happiness.

This is not a difficult question. How can it not be obvious and easy to understand that no one should have the right to deny a man a job, a woman a promotion or a couple an apartment solely because of who they have chosen to love?

Let's do the right thing on Tuesday. Vote yes on Proposition 5.

BOTTOM LINE: Anchorage should ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

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