The Anchorage Assembly screwed up by ignoring the will of 57 percent of the voters who three years ago soundly rejected the idea of adding the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to an already-lengthy list of those protected from discrimination.
Nine of the Assembly's 11-members -- the exceptions being Amy Demboski and Bill Starr -- imperiously decided Tuesday that what 40,223 voters wanted in 2012 means absolutely squat nowadays.
When citizens voted on the proposed municipal code change, there was no mistake. The ballot language was clear.
"Shall the current Municipal Code sections providing legal protections against discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, age, physical disability, and mental disability be amended to include protections on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender identity?"
Voters swarmed the polls in an unusually high 35 percent turnout -- even triggering ballot shortages -- and said, "no."
Despite that, the nine decided by ordinance Tuesday -- dodging another messy vote by the people -- to outlaw discrimination in Anchorage based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Count me among those who could not care less what folks do with their genitalia, or who they marry or what they do in the privacy of their bedrooms. If voters had decided to add discrimination protection for the LGBT community in 2012, that would have been that. When elected officials opt to ignore voters, it is an entirely different matter.
Oh, there was the self-congratulatory yakking Tuesday night about "another step toward living up to Alaskans' values of fairness," and "rights," and all manner of blah-blah-blah. There were accolades from the usual suspects on the left, but the Assembly vote was not really about rights. It was about the worst kind of feel-good puffery and undermining the people's will.
Assemblywoman Elvi Gray-Jackson, who actually opined, the Alaska Dispatch News reported, that there should be no public vote on the question, got it all wrong. "For me, as a black woman, to have the rest of this community vote on whether or not I could have equal rights is just wrong," Gray-Jackson said.
It would, indeed, be horribly wrong if that were anywhere near true, but, despite caterwauling to the contrary, nobody is denying the LGBT community anything, including equal rights. While there may be discrimination in this city against the LGBT community -- as there is against any number of others, including old, fat, white guys -- it is not rampant. This is no civil rights issue, certainly not one of the magnitude that faced blacks and other minorities.
Members of the LGBT community -- surprise! -- already have the same rights as everybody else. They cannot be discriminated against because of "race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, age, physical disability, and mental disability." It is included in the city code and there are all manner of protections in federal law and in the Constitution, which contains no "except for" language.
What they really want are additional rights not granted anyone else; they want laws that muscle the rest of us -- despite religious beliefs or other convictions -- to accept, even embrace, their lifestyle. More important, they want to use government as a bludgeon to ensure the rest of us get in line and, if we balk, have a law in place to provide ample grounds for legal recourse -- as has happened elsewhere. This ordinance -- despite inclusion of perfunctory religious exemptions -- is a bold attack on religious freedom and will cause much heartache. So much for diversity and tolerance.
The worst part of what the Assembly did? In a swoon to do the "right thing," the nine members rejected an amendment calling for an April public advisory vote. They might as well have thumbed their noses at those 40,223 citizens who bothered to vote three years ago.
For his part, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz says he sees the ordinance as a move toward a "just" society, whatever that may be, but it really is nothing more than incredibly lousy law, creating a George Orwell-like city where some "animals are more equal than others." Much of it will be enforced and interpreted based not on actions or certifiable facts or anything concrete, but on how people define themselves -- without proof, mind you -- and that kind of nonsense affects us all. Lousy law is lousy law and it comes back to bite.
There already is talk of an April referendum to dump this exercise in magisterial arrogance and there is little doubt Assembly seats will change hands because of it -- and they should.
With any luck, the very ordinance the nine passed will come back to bite them, too.
Paul Jenkins is an editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com, a division of Porcaro Communications.