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Anchorage

Signatures submitted to put Anchorage bathroom initiative on ballot

  • Author: Devin Kelly
  • Updated: July 20, 2017
  • Published July 20, 2017

Andrea Zekis, a spokesperson for the Fair Anchorage campaign, reads a statement opposing the ballot initiative in front of City Hall on Thursday. Zekis, a transgender woman, said she has lived for many years as a woman but would be required to use the men’s restroom under an initiative to undo local anti-discrimination protections for transgender people.(Devin Kelly / Alaska Dispatch News)

An Anchorage initiative that would require people to use public bathrooms or locker rooms that match the gender on their birth certificates has gained enough signatures to be placed on the 2018 city ballot, supporters say.

In an email, Jim Minnery, executive director of Alaska Family Action, said supporters turned in more than 8,500 signatures Thursday morning, several thousand more than required to qualify for the ballot.

The initiative mirrors so-called "bathroom bills" in other states and would dismantle a key piece of Anchorage's legal protections for transgender people. Since 2015, Anchorage's nondiscrimination laws have allowed people to use bathrooms and locker rooms in places open to the public that correspond with their gender identity.

"People are upset that the government is coercing businesses and churches to let men who identify as women in women's private intimate facilities," Minnery said in a phone interview earlier this month.

Deputy City Clerk Amanda Moser confirmed Thursday that the clerk's office had received the signatures.

The clerk's office now has 10 days to review them. If 5,754 of the signatures are certified, the initiative will appear on the April 2018 city ballot. Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz is running for a second term in the same election.

Minnery didn't immediately return a call for comment Thursday morning. He said in the interview earlier in July that most of the people collecting signatures were volunteers, with one paid signature-gatherer.

Though the initiative's fate isn't yet clear, the lines were being drawn Thursday for an intense local political fight.

A group called Fair Anchorage — a coalition of organizations that includes the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, The Pride Foundation, Identity Inc., Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii and Christians for Equality — held a small rally early Thursday afternoon outside City Hall in response to the signatures being submitted.

About 25 people, including Anchorage Assembly members Felix Rivera and Christopher Constant, chanted, "Keep Anchorage fair."

Representatives of the group said the initiative discriminates against transgender people. Andrea Zekis, a transgender woman who spoke at Thursday's rally, said it would also hurt business and make it more difficult to attract tourists and talent to the city.

"(The initiative) would open me up to harassment and violence when I'm just trying to live my life," Zekis said. "It takes away a value important to me and all Alaskans, and it's the reason why I moved here, and that's freedom."

In the past six weeks, the group had been running a "decline to sign" campaign urging people not to support sending the "Protect Our Privacy" initiative to the ballot.

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