City attorneys reject initiative targeting Anchorage anti-discrimination law

The Anchorage city attorney's office has rejected on a technicality a ballot initiative to water down a new local law barring discrimination over sexual orientation or gender identity.

The decision, accepted Wednesday by the city clerk, means the measure as currently drafted won't appear on the April city ballot unless supporters file a lawsuit, get a judge to schedule the case quickly, and get a favorable decision.

In his written opinion released Wednesday, city attorney Bill Falsey said the proposed initiative violates the "single-subject rule," a provision of state and local law designed to simplify ballot measures.

Falsey said the initiative, filed Jan. 4 under the title "Protect Our Privacy Initiative," contained at least three general categories:   

* The regulation of bathroom use on the basis of sex at the time of birth;

Allowing businesses to refuse to participate in marriage-related activities or adoption services, or to make employment decisions, according to their views of marriage and premarital sex;

* Allowing public accommodations to refuse to post any signs or messages with which the owner or operator, "as a matter of … conviction," disagrees.


While a portion of the first category can be seen as related to privacy, "the remainder of the first category, and the second and third categories, are not, and do not," Falsey wrote.

He wrote that the initiative would ask voters a "compound question, requiring, for instance, voters to express a view both on whether bathroom access should depend on one's anatomy and genetics at birth … and on whether a hospital affiliated with a Catholic charity should be able to fire a janitor for being Lutheran."

Other potential effects would be "potentially lost in the discussion," Falsey added, such as whether providers of public accommodations should be allowed to refuse wedding-related services to a person who conceived a child out of wedlock.  

"This initiative has all these different questions not tied together by any one idea or subject matter," Falsey said in an interview Wednesday.

His office stopped analyzing the initiative for other legal problems after reaching the conclusion that it didn't meet the single-subject rule, the opinion says.  

Deputy city clerk Amanda Moser said the clerk's office told the initiative sponsors the petition wouldn't be certified, based on the legal review. Without a certified petition, supporters can't start collecting signatures.

The primary sponsor, Kim Minnery, wrote in an email Wednesday that she and other signers of the petition were reviewing the response from the city attorneys. She said she couldn't comment immediately on how the group would proceed.

"As this is a grassroots led initiative, there are hundreds of community leaders we are working with and will develop the plan forward with their involvement," Minnery wrote.

The sponsors now have two main options, Falsey said — sue the city within 30 days and ask the judge to force the city to certify the initiative, or start over with a new petition application.

Devin Kelly

Devin Kelly was an ADN staff reporter.