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Day Three, Red Sea Rising

June 18, 2009

[Reposted from the Alaska Commons]

I did not make it all the way through the hearing tonight.

I apologize. I will make sure that I review the feed from the Assembly and the partial tape recording that I put together, and the transcriptions will not be left out.

Simply put, today was a joke. A very angry, sad, and frightened joke.

Rev. Jerry Prevo of the Anchorage Baptist Church cancelled the scheduled church services today so that he could bus in his entire congregation, on top of the Mat-Su Valley contingent, and apparently all of their combined children. The result was a 10 to 1 majority of public testimony opposed to the ordinance, and a sea of red.

And they were angry.

The talking points were gathered and distributed. This bill was rushed. There is no evidence of discrimination. This is a liberal gay agenda pushed by an acting mayor who was not elected by the people. It is not about equality, it is about special rights. These are rights that you are taking away from god fearing Christians. How dare you start this meeting at four instead of five. How dare you try to stop us from speaking. There are men in drag in the bathroom.

I was there from the beginning of the meeting at 4pm, and left shortly after nine-thirty. The “voices of the people” are not sending any new messages that need to be put on record. The “voices of the people” are now a loop. These talking points were repeated all night long, often sprinkling old wounds with the salt of homosexuality being an abomination, perverse, a lifestyle choice, a deviant behaviorism. The only changes came when speakers would publicly and angrily chastise Acting Mayor Matt Claman and the Assembly for forcing the proposal of the ordinance, and creating this division in our city.

There is a major problem that the opponents of the equal rights ordinance face regarding their worldview. Simply put, they believe that this worldview revolves solely around them. It is the only way they are able to justify their position. Everything was fine until the Anchorage Assembly brought this up. Landlords testified that they had never discriminated against homosexuals, and didn’t understand what the fuss was about. None of them, evidently, gave any credence to the idea that, if they in fact had never applied discrimination based on sexual orientation, that in no way reflects the views and approaches taken by all other landlords in Anchorage. Business owners gloated that their employees were a diverse group of people and that we didn’t need any laws, and didn’t lend any thought to the idea that, just maybe, this wasn’t the case in every place of business in Anchorage. Long time Anchorage residents absolutely ripped into Claman as they stated that this division was a direct result of the “liberal” Assembly’s actions, and that they had never witnessed, first hand, any sort of discrimination towards the LGBT community. They then would sit down, and listen to the next person get up and proclaim that homosexuality is the greatest sin, that they are not equal in the eyes of God, that they are miscreants. Should we assume that they were all just hard of hearing?

Today was sickening. Churches with locked doors are pitiful, and their congregants who enjoy the feeling of their head buried in sand are disheartening. And worst of all are the Jerry Prevo puppet-masters who enjoy orchestrating festivals of hatred and toying with people who are struggling to translate an evolving society. While the world outside is expanding, in terms of inclusion and community, he is tightening the reigns, restricting the walls around his followers. It is breeding grounds for closed mindedness and hostile disconnect.

When first walking in to the Assembly chambers this afternoon, and upon seeing all the empty chairs, a woman of the red shirt persuasion commented to her friend, “Oh! I get to sit up in the front this time!”

To her, this wasn’t a hearing on equal rights to an afflicted group of people who have been locked in a battle all of their lives to be recognized as the equal citizens with rights that our US and State Constitution guarantee. This was a sporting event. And it wasn’t just her. Chair Ossiander constantly had to encourage the gathered mass to back off of the celebratory cheers that accompanied each three minute judgment doled out by the opponents of the ordinance. But it never took. They were routing for their team, and seemed to have no real emotional connection to any of it.

In sports, if a player is injured, often the opposing team will take a knee, in reverence and respect of the pain their colleague is going through. I bleed my team colors, but even I will give pause and shut my damn mouth when a player that I am routing against goes down. Some of these folks are not following proper sports etiquette. This is bloodsport for them. They will smile and ask if the seats next to you are taken, but they also will not hesitate to believe that a gay man or woman will not burn in hellfire for eternity and they want you the hell out of their backyard, bathrooms, community, state, and theocratically interpreted constitutional rights.

I don’t know where we go from here. If there is an upside, it is in the clarity that the Assembly has offered us. They have made up their minds. They’re not telling us how they’ve made up their minds, but it is clear that the time for changing their minds has solidly run out. The first attempts to filibuster the discussion and subsequent vote on this ordinance continue. But, even more prevalent is the new tactic to literally strong arm the law. The anger. The bully mentality. And these kids who have been cycled in and out over the past three meetings! These are the “in crowd” in the schools which they attend. They’re the popular kids. They’re making bigotry and narrow minds cool! This is a problem. And it is a problem by design.

If they can’t filibuster into the next administration, they are going to scare the hell out of us. They do so with numbers. They do so with volume.  They do so with their interpretation of the Bible and of their perception of God. They do so by spitting in the face of the Assembly’s legitimacy and smearing Acting Mayor Matt Claman, as if he wrote this proposal himself. They threaten the Assembly members; “We’ll remember you. We’ll remember how you vote. And we’ll remember to vote against you.” They embody and promote the tyranny of a majority and disregard the judicial system that was institutionalized to combat it.

They think that the world is going to end if people are legally recognized as equal. They need to calm down.

A bright spot, only in reassurance, is that we’re not alone. Crazy is popping up everywhere. Check out this moniker of rational thought:

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3 comments

  1. The meeting last night seems to have enraged you. Unfortunately, most people probably weren’t enraged enough. This whole issue makes clear why courts will eventually need to step in and take care of this ignorance with one great sweep of decision, protecting at last the rights of a minority that struggles with equality at every turn. I’m glad to hear your outcries, knowing that it isn’t only you who is voicing it.

    I’ve heard through semi-reliable sources that the assembly is for the ordinance. Of course, nothing is done until it is done and I certainly won’t be relaxing yet. If it is up to Sullivan, I don’t see this getting through and I hope that it angers people. Angry citizens=change. Still, peaceful passing this is probably preferable.


    • I’m with you on all counts, Brian. I just hope we can get through this peacefully.


  2. […] 6/18/09. “Day Three, Red Sea Rising” by John Aronno (Alaska Commons). Must-read analysis of Day 3 of testimony.  This was the day that Jerry Prevo canceled Anchorage Baptist Temple’s church service so that ABT members could “overwhelm” the Assembly.  Most (though not all) testimony was from Assembly opponents who are part of  Prevo & co.’s fillibuster effort. John writes:  “I was there from the beginning of the meeting at 4pm, and left shortly after nine-thirty. The “voices of the people” are not sending any new messages that need to be put on record. The “voices of the people” are now a loop. These talking points were repeated all night long, often sprinkling old wounds with the salt of homosexuality being an abomination, perverse, a lifestyle choice, a deviant behaviorism.” Reposted at SOSAnchorage.net. […]



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