City Assembly Meeting Transcripts: Volume 2

June 13, 2009

[Originally posted on the Alaska Commons]

Testimony #11
[Isa, Anchorage resident]
Uh, thank you madam chairperson, Anchorage assembly.
[Chair: Please start with your name.]
I’m Isa [last name omitted] and I’m an adopted citizen of this United States of America. I’m sorry, I’m so emotional.
[Chair: That’s fine]
But if you need proof, I have proof that I’ve been discriminated so many times, and this is the latest one from the equal rights commission.
[Chair: Ok, if you want to give us any documents, you can give it to our clerk and she will pass it out. Do you want to speak first?]
Yes, yes ma’am.
[Chair: Ok, go ahead.]
[Chair: That’s fine.]
There is no, there is no stronger symbol of freedom today than of the United States of America. We must never, never underestimate the wisdom of our founding fathers, who gave up, who gave us the supreme law of the land. It’s of moral and legal turpitude of this benevolent institution to ammend unjust legal practices against minorities, which is obsolete of a bygone era. To the assembly, I aplore you to have compassion and providence. Please ammend the legislate, the law, that discriminates. It’s not an American value. It is but a reflection of a society’s affliction towards the disenfranchised. Let’s stop this mendacity amongst hate mongers, homophobes, and pious zealots. America can’t proclaim as the leader of the free world, if it’s citizens are not emancipated. Please ask ourselves, what kind of nation we are; with the direction we have to move into. We are all but one. Eliminate, irradicate the last vestiges of this injustice. Equality now.

Testimony #12
[Suzie, husband works in Anchorage, residency not specified]

Good evening, Mrs. Ossiander and assembly. My name is Suzie [last name omitted] and I also stand here representing my husband, Air Force retired major Edward [last name omitted]. He teaches junior ROTC at West High School. I am here today to voice my concern over the sexual orientation ordinance that is being addressed this evening. This goes beyond being a Christian issue. It’s a human issue. I am a Christian woman, and I do have love and compassion for people of all walks of life, but this ordinance crosses the boundaries of any human rights. Please, carefully read the small print and realize that this ordinance is just not right and it pushes, it pushes, it pushes the beliefs and lifestyles that homosexuals, transexuals, and bisexual people have onto us who are heterosexual. Please vote no. Thank you.

Testimony #13
[Charles, Anchorage resident]

Does my hair look okay?
[Chair: No comment.]
Just for the record my name’s Charles [last name omitted], Um, I would first like to start by thanking the Anchorage Assembly for hosting this hearing, on this very important issue today. I would also like to thank Mayor Claman for having the progressive fortitude to bring this issue before the assembly. Over two hundred and thirty years ago, our nation launched its improbable experiment in democracy with the Declaration of Independence that was founded on the premise that all men are created equal, that we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And while our founders themselves struggled to live up to these words and ideals, they ultimately knew the legacy they were leaving behind was one that forcefully and unequivocally advocated for civil equality, civil discord, discourse, and yes, civil disobedience. And such has been our nation’s history, one of the unjust suppressing of human and civil rights, but such also has been our nation’s history of progress, of overcoming, of persevering in an effort to narrow the gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of our time. Throughout our history, from the plight of the bloody patriot, to the bonded slave, to the woman who dared to reach for the ballot, from the African American living in the Jim Crow south, to the illegally detained prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community that stands before you today. All found themselves, when juxtaposed with our nation’s ideology, on the right side of history. All found their calls rooted in the suppression of their basic civil and human rights by the very government that has been instituted to procure and protect these rights. Our founding fathers legacy was to leave to successive generations, to you, to I, to the fine people standing here in this room today, the task of bringing everybody together under the banner of equality. To the Anchorage Assembly, this is your chance to be on the right side of history. When your children’s children look back on your actions, your deeds, what will they see? To those who… seemingly hate and fear, liberty has always had its foe, and mark history’s words, you will be defeated. In the words of the great Dr. King, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. May you be just. Thank you.

Testimony #14
[Phyllis, Anchorage resident]

Good evening, my name is Phyllis [last name omitted], I have lived in Anchorage forty-two years. I am a mother, and I am a grandmother, and I have a lesbian daughter. And I have been in a same sex relationship with my partner for twenty years. I have a brief story of my own. I worked in the same office for over twenty years. I was really careful not to reveal my sexual orientation. I was fearful of losing my job and I was fearful of being harassed. I retired from that job thirteen years ago. Seven years ago, I began, um, as a volunteer at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center and also I volunteer to answer the identity helpline, which is information referral, uh, in the evenings. During that seven year period, I can tell you that not one of those years went by that I did not speak with someone who had lost their home or more often had left their job because their sexual orientation had been discovered. They will all be here. They’ve already been whacked by the system. They’re not going to come in here again and reveal who they are and take a chance again of losing a job. These people had good work records, they had received promotions, yet they were dismissed as soon as it was perceived that they were homosexual. So, I hope that answers the questions of some, especially some people sitting on this assembly, about whether do we need this amendment, because we do. This is a wonderful city, it could be even more wonderful, and safer and more inclusive home to us all. If fear and hate were not being taught. If fear and hate were not being tolerated. Doing something about this is up to you. Thank you.

Testimony #15
[Christopher, Anchorage resident]

Dear Assembly, my name is Christopher [last name omitted]. I would like for you to know how important it is that we must pass this ordinance. I’ve been a resident of Anchorage for the past six years, working in the field of technology. I really am glad to have my profession. In addition, I’ve had many professional challenges that have hurt me economically,  professionally, and psychologically. The term ‘that is so gay’ has been used in positions I have held. This term relates to an entire group of Americans, as well as myself, being negative. There are many other options to describe what someone does not agree with or something that is not… understood by a coworker, boss, or just in general. Having worked recently at a tech shop here in Anchorage, the term was used negatively all the time by my supervisor… Now, I can take a joke from time to time, because we are the butt of someone’s jokes. But the problem with that is that it became out of hand and it was becoming hurtful to me. My supervisor was using the term gay negatively all the time and to him I was indifferent, and not part of a team. I tried to have a discussion with his boss who was his best friend. And, uh, at that time, he told me, and to quote, and I quote, Chris… Chris the term ‘that is so gay’ is used negatively, but you have to accept it as a form of pop culture… There is nothing you can do and you just have to accept it. At that time I felt hurt. At that moment I was, I felt hurt and intimidated. He was not fully aware, me coming originally from New York City, that, uh, I had worked in print production for a major record label. Instead, on February 3rd, 2009, this year, I quit that position. It was a difficult choice. It was very difficult. You see, we have a home. We have a home that we own and I had to quit because of someone’s ignorance. I felt uneasy and this may happen again… I have to pay my mortgage, I have taxes, and I have to put food on the table for me and my partner. It’s been difficult. We’ve had to borrow money from family, and there’s no reason for this to happen. Just because I have a partner of the same sex. Passing this ordinance not only helps the LGBT community, but everyone as well as myself. It protects us all [3 minute timer sounds] from having to pay higher interest rates on taxes because someone has foreclosed on their home.
[Chair: Thank you, sir]
Thank you.

Testimony #16
[Tony, Anchorage resident]

Good evening, my name is Tony [last name omitted], I’m a life long Anchorage resident, and I live in Assembly District 5. I graduated from Stellar Secondary school in 2008 and now attend American University in Washington DC. Part of the reason I chose to go there is because American University and the District of Colombia are very protective and supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. I feel safe, respected, and valued there, because I know that my school, and the city around it, will be there for me if I am harassed or discriminated against because of my sexual orientation or gender identity. I don’t necessarily know that here. I love Anchorage. It’s a beautiful place with… countless opportunities, but it doesn’t have laws to protect me. I’m in the process of finding a summer job right now, and if someone decides to discriminate against me in that process because of who I am, right now I can’t do anything about that. When I was in high school, I was involved with Anchorage Youth Court, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, the Alaska Community Institute, and a number of other local community organizations. Many other LGTB youth that I know are the same way; they’re some of the most involved students in their schools and communities. Anchorage needs bright, motivated, young people like us, but right now, Anchorage is telling us that you don’t want us here. So we leave for cities that are willing to stand up for our rights. I don’t think Anchorage wants to be known as a city where you can be legally discriminated against because of who you are, who you love, but that’s what we’re saying right now. Tonight you can change that. Passing this ordinance with the Amendments supported by Equality Works to ensure that transgender people are protected… will tell me and my peers that you do want us here, voting in our energy and impact to make Anchorage a better place. Without it, you’re going to just keep watching us leave and never come back. Thank you.

Testimony #17
[Susan, residency not specified]

Good evening, I’m Susan [last name omitted]. I strongly support the efforts to include sexual orientation in a non-discrimination ordinance. I ask that you look into your hearts with compassion on the whole community of Anchorage and all its diverse citizens who only desire to live and work in this wonderful city without fear. This is an important step in breaking down the walls that separate us as we work through the struggles and confusion to take away the arrogance and hatred that infect our hearts, and uniting us in making Anchorage and the state of Alaska a place where we can all be proud to live. It hasn’t been easy for any of us, as reflected in the recent articles and personal opinions expressed on both sides of this issue. But your decision personally effects two members of my family and a whole community of friends that I love, one of which who can’t be here this evening because she is devastated by the bathroom amendment, for lack of a better term. In closing, I want to express to all of you that I sincerely appreciate the efforts you’ve made and continue to make to improve this community. But I ask that you seriously look at this issue. There are real fears in our church, when someone comes in, we have parishioners who have to hide, because if they’re on TV, or if they’ve spoken, or if they are in the military and it is determined that they’ve made a statement about being gay, they will lose their jobs, they will lose their income. It’s real, it’s not imagined, and it’s not an agenda. I don’t care who says so. I thank you for your consideration. And I, I don’t envy you, your jobs. Thank you.

Testimony #18
[Alex, Anchorage resident]

Thank you members of the Assembly and madam Chair, my name is Alex [last name omitted] and I am a twelve year resident of Anchorage and a lifelong Alaskan, and I am an appreciator of the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Bhagavad Gita, the book of Mormon, and any other holy book that you can put in front of me. But I wish to sin in front of you today to support the equal right ordinance. In his acceptance speech of the Nobel Prize in 1977, Gabriel Garcia Marquez stated the interpretation of our reality through patterns not our own, serves only to make us ever more unknown… ever less free, and ever more solitary. Here are some patterns of our city that I have found and I wish to relate with you. Anchorage is a city that has come to brought, to pride itself on its diversity. In the 2000 US census we boasted that we have a 28% minority population and have had a twelve percent increase over the last twenty years. We have a higher percentage of multi-ethnic and civilian veterans than the rest of the nation, and in 2006 our Anchorage school district reported 43% of its students are more than one race and 95% speak more than one language. As a middle and high school student I did participate in Anchorage Youth Court serving three terms on the board of directors and one as the president of the bar association, and because of my involvement, I was able to celebrate with the organization in 2002 when Anchorage was awarded the title of all-American city. This title is awarded, only, as I’m sure you know, to ten cities each year and was granted because we hosted the Special Olympics, we recruited the noted Anchorage Youth Court, and we also formed…the Bridge Builders Organization. All these programs marched towards embracing differences in physical ability, age, and, excuse me, ethnicity. Looking at all these data shows that this city has done much to interpret the realities of everyone according to their own patterns as to make them known, free, and united, yet there is one vital sector of our city that we have forgotten to embrace and protect which is why so many of us are here already today. As it stands, homosexuals have no protection against employer and landlord discrimination. I do not wish to debate religion or morality with anyone, I stand her for tolerance and for equality; tolerance not meaning we all must like each other and get along, but accept that we are all here, we’re all put here, and we are deserving of equal rights protected. The prefix clause in separate but not equal did not work before and they will not work now. I do not understand how a city can tout its diverse population and then would shun another, other than to say that we appreciate diversity only when we can see it with our own eyes, and not feel it with our own hearts. I believe that if we do not embrace these people and we run the risk of falling into the category of interpreters that Gabriel Garcia Marquez spoke against so fervently, and making ourselves ever less free, ever less known, and ever more solitary. Thank you.

Testimony #19
[Deborah, Anchorage resident]

My name is Deborah [last name omitted]. I was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. I’m here today because it is important that our city support and protect all areas of diversity. I heard all the factors of birth that range from eye and skin color to sexual orientation. These factors have no bearing in how any individual performs, functions in their employment. I’ve worked in the sales and marketing field for fifteen years. The fact that I am gay is irrelevant. And as irrelevant as to how I perform my job duties as is my shoe size. In December 2005, I was hired to general manager by Clarkwood Inn. My job was wide ranging and included the overseeing all departments of the hotel. My primary focus was streamlining the front of the house, and to market the hotel to increase visibility and sales. I was given no budget for this and was told to be creative, so with zero dollars and out of the box mentality, I setup an email and fax advertisement campaign to target markets achieving sales that would not have happened otherwise during the slowest time of year. The owner of the hotel was pleased with my work. In the normal process of office communication, the owner asked about my boyfriend or husband, and invited us to dinner, which I politely declined, saying I separate my home life and working relationships. I had noticed the Christian fish symbols on the hotel stationary and on the paper work. I avoided using pronouns that might define my partner’s sex. As the GM, one of my duties was to cover the front desk shifts if someone was sick or absent. During one such shift that kept me at work for sixteen hours that day… my partner brought me dinner. My employer was in his office as well and could see the front office from his door. In parting, my partner told me to have a good night, to be safe on the way home, that she would wait up for me, and that she loved me. When she left, he came up, remarked that it was sweet that my mother brought me dinner, and said he didn’t realize I still lived at home. I told him that she was not my mother, and things immediately changed. He asked if I was gay and I did not lie to him. After that night, I told him… I had a candidate for the maintenance position available and his response was, he’s not gay is he. He would not even look at this person’s resume; he assumed… He asked for the first time where I was advertising the hotel, and that he did not want me marketing to gay people. That week I was put out of my office and told that I would be training his wife on the financial side of things, that he wanted her more involved. I was asked to go to the church with him with the implication that he would see me differently if I did. In a matter of weeks, after he realized I was not heterosexual, a fact that had nothing to do with my job performance, I was reduced to the duties of front desk, yet still being paid salary and working sixty hours each week. I was still bring pressed to attend his church and been told that I worked in a Christian business. Thinking that orientation was covered in EEO laws I mentioned this to him and asked if he realized he was discriminating on the basis of orientation. He only smiled and told me I should go look again. I did, and found it was not included and I had no real recourse. My work environment became more and more hostile and I resigned my position. I was able to find suitable employment fairly quickly, because I am skilled in my field. [3 minute timer sounds] Others may not have been able to find employment so easily.
[Chair: Thank you.]
Thank you very much.

Testimony #20
[Carla, Eagle River resident]

Hello, I’m Carla [last name omitted]… I have lived in Eagle River, Alaska for 25 years, and Alaska for 30, I’m an attorney, my focus is in the area of family law; I do appellate court and mediation. I’m here because I strongly support extending the protection against discrimination to people who have become discriminated against because people believe that their sexual orientation is gay, lesbian, bisexual, transexual, transgender. I preferred the first draft. But, the current draft is pretty good, I think it does a pretty good job of balancing some weighty and competing constitutional and personal issues, and I really hope you pass this second draft, except the part I’m about to speak to. Having hand out that address section 5-20-080-B, capital B, and that’s the provision that talks about the whole bathroom issue. Um, I’m not arguing, I think it’s fine to be really clear in this ordinance that the law hasn’t changed and that we can have bathrooms that have men’s bathrooms that are men’s bathrooms and that are woman’s bathrooms and the lines shouldn’t be crossed. I just think the language in here is a little bit murky and open to, um, confusion and also to the, um, to the litigation that everyone has talked about being worried about, so I passed out some language that I think is just a little simpler, a little more straight forward, to those of you behind me, instead of having the provision it has, it says, not withstanding any provision of this chapter, it shall not be unlawful for employers or operators of public accommodations to maintain and enforce gender segregated restrooms, or to impose reasonable dress-codes, work rules, or other rules of general applications. I just think it’s straighter and simpler and its not substantively different. I’d hate to get, try to have people calling me to ask me what biological gender always means and stretching the as such in terms of what’s a bathroom, as such. So, that’s why I have this language. The other hand out that I’ve brought up is, um, just a list of people, I’m in Eagle River, a number of people knew this was up today. They’re not going to be able to come all the way into town, but they wanted me on the public record in supporting this ordinance. I have to admit a couple people from Palmer signed it, but basically, every one here is going to be from Chugiak. Uh, the other issue I wanted to talk about is to note that the issue of whether or not sexual orientation is a matter of choice or whether it’s determined at birth, I don’t think it’s germane through this ordinance. Civil right to be from discrimination and employment, or hiring, et cetera, is not limited to groups who are born into that group. The current statute doesn’t allow discrimination based on religion, and certain real people are not born into the faith that they follow as adults.
[Question from Harriet Drummond: Thank you very much for coming, and thank you for the suggested ammendment, and I guarantee I will consider it. Um, it’s my understanding that there are a number of people who have signed up to speak that are not residents of Anchorage. Do you have any knowledge of those folks, since you mentioned people from Palmer?]
No, I just know that that when people asked me to sign this, and a couple people signed it, I didn’t cross it out because they were from Palmer, but this happened in Eagle River, not out in the lobby, this was from days ago.
[Harriet Drummond: Thanks]
Thank you.


One comment

  1. […] 6/13/09. “City Assembly Meeting Transcripts: Volume 2″ by John Aronno (Alaska Commons). John’s transcription of the testimony from the second ten witnesses. Reposted at SOSAnchorage.net. […]

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