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Sullivan faces deadline on gay rights veto

Don Hunter

Hundreds of people who spent long hours packing Anchorage Assembly meetings this summer to argue about a proposal to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation are taking their cases to Mayor Dan Sullivan.

Sullivan's deadline arrives today for deciding if he will veto the compromise ordinance passed by a 7-4 Assembly vote last week. If he does veto, the Assembly would need an eighth vote to make the ordinance become law over the mayor's opposition.

"He's getting inundated" with e-mails and phone calls, the mayor's spokeswoman, Sarah Erkmann, said Sunday.

Most are urging a veto, perhaps by as much as a 4-to-1 ratio, Erkmann said.

The Anchorage Baptist Temple's Rev. Jerry Prevo, an ardent longtime opponent of the new ordinance and similar proposals over the past 30 years, provided a link to the mayor's e-mail address from the church's Web page and a related one for SOS Anchorage, an organization he formed several weeks ago to oppose the measure.

"It is important that you let the mayor know what you would like for him to do," Prevo's Web message says. "Some of you may have already sent an e-mail, but if (you) have not sent one to the e-mail address below, please do so right away and encourage all of your friends to do likewise."

Supporters of the anti-discrimination ordinance have some heavyweights in their corner, too, including Cook Inlet Region Inc., the Southcentral Native regional corporation.

In a letter to Sullivan on Friday, CIRI Senior Vice President Barbara Donatelli says the corporation's own policies forbid discrimination because of sexual orientation.

"CIRI strongly believes that all individuals deserve fair and equal employment opportunities, protection from unfair discrimination and the right to live their lives without fear," Donatelli's letter says, adding that CIRI "urges you to do the right thing by not exercising your veto power."

In a statement issued late last week, the pro-ordinance group Equality Works listed CIRI and more than 15 other local businesses that support the ordinance, which forbids discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, finance, public accommodations and housing.

"The reality is that there are many, many companies that have progressive policies," said Jackie Buckley, a spokeswoman for Equality Works. "They know it's important to have that kind of atmosphere."

Buckley said she sent Sullivan an e-mail, too. "I'm hoping this moves forward," she said.

Jim Minnery, president of the Alaska Family Council and, like Prevo, a prominent opponent of the anti-discrimination measure, said the council has put out "our standard action alerts" and phone calls to remind pastors the decision is due soon.

"It's just working all our standard channels to make sure people let the mayor know" how they feel, said Minnery, who argues there "isn't widespread hatred and discrimination going on," and that the ban on discrimination against gays, lesbians and bisexuals causes reverse discrimination against people based on their religious beliefs.

The equal rights battle goes back decades in Anchorage, since a similar measure was first passed by the Assembly shortly after the municipality was formed in 1975. Mayor George Sullivan, Dan Sullivan's father, vetoed it then.

The issue surfaced again in Anchorage this spring when acting Mayor Matt Claman brought it to the table. In a series of often loud, contentious public hearings in June and July, overflow crowds crowded into the Assembly's chamber as demonstrators on both sides lined streets outside.

Find Don Hunter online at adn.com/contact/dhunter or call 257-4349.


By DON HUNTER
dhunter@adn.com