Opinions

Anchorage LGBT ordinance is a dangerous solution in search of a problem

Mozilla Firefox, the massive search engine tech company, hires a new CEO in 2014 named Brandon Eich. Earlier, Eich made a private $1,000 donation towards Proposition 8 – the successful effort in California to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman. Not good. People found out. Outrage ensued. Eich was fired.

Andrew Sullivan, until recently, one of the most prominent gay bloggers in America had this to say about the incident – "Will he now be forced to walk through the streets in shame? Why not the stocks? The whole episode disgusts me – as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society. If this is the gay rights movement today – hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else – then count me out. If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us."

Clarity is a wonderful thing.

Sullivan and many others in the LGBTQIA world understand that America is great because we are pluralistic. Diverging views on issues is actually healthy. As the Anchorage Assembly once again considers adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the nondiscrimination code, they should remember that coercion of views is not a value that resonates with most people in this community.

Back in 2012, Proposition 5, was soundly defeated by 58 percent of the voters. But elections matter and we now have a more liberal-minded Assembly and an eager mayor licking his chops to sign this unnecessary ordinance into law despite the clear will of the people.

Let's be clear. This is no civil rights movement. Gays aren't being asked to drink from separate water fountains and sit at the back of the bus. African-American pastors across Anchorage were offended by the comparison and said so publicly. The LGBTQIA community is more accepted and privileged in nearly every cultural and economic sphere than at any time in history. Does everyone in society absolutely accept and affirm their lifestyle choice? No, and that's okay because diversity of thought is a good thing.

This new ordinance legally invites men into public restrooms, locker rooms and dressing rooms being used by women and girls because they happen to "identify" as female. This ordinance would provide no protection to any wedding vendor for not being able to participate in a same-sex ceremony. This ordinance would not protect an adoption agency or individual attorney that is faith-based and cannot, in good conscience, place a child in a home that purposefully denies that child a mom or a dad. This ordinance would prevent faith-based schools, churches and other religious organizations from making their own hiring decisions. Want everyone on your staff to share your statement of faith? Too bad. If this ordinance passes, the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission will determine if the position is "ministerial" enough.

Everywhere these laws have passed, freedom of speech, religion and conscience are at risk. The government should safeguard constitutional freedoms, not undermine them. The state of Washington has had this kind of law on their books for eight years. Seventy-six cases have been filed claiming discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or sexual identity. Guess what happened? The Equal Rights Commission could not find probable cause in one of those claims. Seventy-six out of 76 cases were dismissed. Someone being uncomfortable or not affirming of your lifestyle does not make them a bigot or a case for a discrimination lawsuit.

There is no doubt that hateful thoughts and words are tossed back and forth by both sides in this heated cultural discussion. Although that is wrong, it is not a reason to pass a law.

This ordinance is a solution in search of a problem we do not have. It limits the freedom to live in a diverse, robust and tolerant community. Freedom from government coercion is good for the economy, the business community and the people of Anchorage. Rationally thinking people on both sides of the political spectrum know this and that's why Proposition 5 was so handily defeated.

This ordinance would harm Anchorage's economy by preventing business owners and faith-based groups from contributing to a diverse and pluralistic marketplace that includes options and choices for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. We should oppose it because it plays favorites with freedom and suppresses free enterprise. It's time to simply agree to disagree as residents, stop the hate-filled speech on both sides and quit stirring up this hornet's nest. We don't have to see eye-to-eye, but we should strive to oppose each other in an agreeable manner.

Jim Minnery is president of Alaska Family Action, a group which describes its vision as "an Alaska where God is honored, religious freedom flourishes, families thrive and life is cherished."

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@alaskadispatch.com

Jim Minnery

Jim Minnery is president and founder of Alaska Family Action, statewide, pro-family public policy organization that exists to provide a voice on social and cultural issues impacting Alaskan families.

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