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Point-Counterpoint: Protect transgender people from bigotry; vote no on Proposition 1

  • Author: Kevin D. McGee
    | Opinion
  • Updated: February 8
  • Published February 8

"Proposition 1 is one of the most divisive, harmful initiatives I've seen on the ballot in our beloved city." That's what former Republican state Sen. Arliss Sturgulewski said about the proposal to require schools and other employers to discriminate.

From the NAACP's perspective, Proposition 1 is outrageous: It would mandate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, reversing the many decades of progress we have achieved by working together. Please join me in voting no on Proposition 1 during the municipal election in April.

Over the last hundred years, humans have confronted discrimination in many forms, and in many places. The Ku Klux Klan primarily targeted blacks. The Nazis attempted to exterminate all Jews, but also murdered gays and lesbians, as well as other minorities.

More recently, bigots have targeted LGBTQ Americans for discrimination, including with Proposition 1. This proposal is particularly outrageous in the context of Alaska history. Some of our greatest leaders worked to end legal discrimination, both at the state level with Elizabeth Peratrovich and in Congress with our delegation.

Our Constitutional Convention delegates established some of the strongest protections of any state to ensure Alaskans' privacy and liberties are protected from discrimination such as that proposed by Proposition 1. We should never let a few bigots tarnish our state's history and heritage by passing Proposition 1.

Andrea Zekis, a spokeswoman for the Fair Anchorage campaign, reads a statement in front of City Hall on Thursday, July 20, 2017. 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 a ballot initiative rolling back local anti-discrimination protections for transgender residents. (Devin Kelly / Alaska Dispatch News)

It is not surprising that bigots resort to misleading and false claims to promote discrimination. Proposition 1 supporters are no different, claiming that somehow Anchorage's bathrooms are at risk. That claim is ridiculous: It is illegal, and will remain illegal, to harass or assault people in bathrooms. To fix a nonexistent "problem," Proposition 1 proponents propose making school districts and other employers require bathroom users to prove their gender identity and prohibit transgender individuals from using the "wrong" bathroom.

This proposal is absurd on its face. Does Anchorage really need a troop of bathroom police? Most of us recognize that law enforcement should be stopping real crimes, not harassing people who need to relieve themselves. But Proposition 1 is even more insidious than it is ridiculous, because it attempts to shame and harass some of our neighbors through a system of legal harassment.

Informal harassment is bad enough. But it is much worse if codified by government. Proposition 1 would require schools to demonize and harass some students but not others. It would require schoolteachers and administrators to become bullies themselves. I cannot think of a more un-Christian and uncivil approach to education.

It may be appealing to think that Proposition 1 proponents are so crazy, and in such a small minority of voters, that we can sit back and wait for the proposition to fail. That would be a mistake. As former Sen. Sturgulewski said recently, "None of us can afford to turn a blind eye to a ballot measure that would roll back years of progress just to make it easier to discriminate against transgender people who call our city home."

Alaskans, and Americans from other states, overwhelmingly oppose discrimination. Yet a small, bigoted minority still proposes discrimination measures like this, and sometimes they have passed despite overwhelming public opposition. Consider how much business, and respect, North Carolina lost after its state legislature passed a bigoted bill to require bathroom discrimination.

We cannot allow a few bigots to embarrass Alaska, or to roll back our decades of progress on protecting personal liberty. We must all stand together by voting no on Proposition 1, and by informing our friends and neighbors about this poisonous proposal.

Kevin McGee is president of  the Anchorage chapter of the NAACP.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser.

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