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Conservatives rally amid anti-discrimination veto debate

FAIRBANKS — Conservatives rallied to support Fairbanks and its mayor, who vetoed a local law that would have given sweeping equal rights protections to the LGBTQ community.

The rally, billed as celebrating inclusiveness, was organized by City Councilman David Pruhs.

Those gathered Thursday cheered Pastor Mark Zweifel after he thanked Mayor Jim Matherly for vetoing the ordinance, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

The city council could consider a potential veto override on Monday. However, overriding the veto would require five votes from the six-person council. The original ordinance passed on a 4-2 vote.

Matherly, in vetoing the measure, said he wanted to put the issue to voters. The council could approve a ballot measure for consideration by voters or residents could seek to gather signatures to put their own initiative to a vote.

Some of those who attended the rally held signs thanking Matherly. But most of the signs stated things such as "We are good neighbors" or "Love for our Golden Heart City."

Sarah Elder attended as a protester and held a sign calling for the council to overturn Matherly's veto.

"We asked for protections. They were granted," Elder said. "And then Mayor Matherly took them away. And now people are celebrating that."

Meanwhile, Anchorage Democratic state Rep. Andy Josephson has introduced legislation that would bar discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Josephson said the debate in Fairbanks did not prod the introduction.

Josephson has pushed similar legislation in the past, without success, though he said he believes the measure will be adopted eventually.