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We the future of Alaska, in Solidarity

July 20, 2009
[Reprinted from my husband’s site, Alaska Commons.  Now it’s my turn to be proud.  Your eloquence humbles me at every turn.]
Loussac Library

Loussac Library

Tomorrow is round six of the public hearings surrounding proposed Ordinance 64, which would extend equal rights protection, in cases of discrimination in the workplace, housing, and credit, to the LGBT in the municipality of Anchorage, Alaska.

Alaska Commons will be live blogging, provided I make it into the Assembly chambers, as will my wife, Heather, over on SOSAnchorage.net, and I’m guessing we’ll be joined by the multitude of other usual suspects; MudflatsShannyn Moore,HenkimaaCeltic DivaImmoral Minority, and more (check my links to the right for additional sites)

I’ve heard and learned a staggering amount during these hearings. Some words have left me in absolute awe of the intelligence, bravery, and perseverance on display. Other words are harder to drink away.

During our time in chambers, those in attendance have heard from our friends, family, and neighbors. We have heard Alaskan legal opinions,  medical opinions, the One In Ten and Identity Reports conducted in the 80’s and presented to this Assembly by one of the reports’ authors, Mel Green of Henkimaa. We’ve heard from our own Equal Rights Commission. We even heard from Vic Fischer, who helped write our state constitution, as a delegate of the Alaska Constitutional Convention. All offered their unwavering support in the pursuit of equality.

Many don’t view this ambitious catalog of participants as evidence painting an urgent need for this ithinkthereforiamlegislation, nor do they recognize it as grounds for legal precedent. Some view it as utterly obsolete, simply because Jerry Prevo says so. Some people speaking before the assembly, as well as from the Reverend himself, preaching from the pulpit of the Anchorage Baptist Temple, have challenged that religious institutions should be exempt from codes dictating tolerance on matter of “sexual behavior,” ignoring the reality that this ordinance does no such thing. It offers protection regarding sexual orientation. They are two separate issues; Sexual behavior is a choice to proceed in a manner reflective of your morals. Sexual orientation is a core part of who you are. Who we all are, no matter if you choose to thump a bible or a bed stand; indifferent to which bible you thump, or which gender attracts your gaze.

There are those who have claimed that this violates the First Amendment, which affords all citizens of the United States our most intrinsic freedoms. However, this specific translation of the United States Constitution is as narrow as the interpretations of the Bible that these men and women subscribe to, and equally as devoid of context and intent. Our First Amendment clearly states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or the prohibiting free exercise thereof.”Free exercise is explicitly different than free reign, and this Amendment was carefully designed to offer protection both for and from religion and its often conflicting interpretations, written by framers (largely deists) who in no way wished to write into law a narrative where they were actors in an American theocracy. Glenn Beck can tea-bag himself until he’s blue in the face and the cows come home. He still can’t change that fact.

For now, the fate of Ordinance 64 rests with the Assembly. We need to keep showing up, and keep reminding the Assembly that we won’t go away. The filibuster put in place by certain shadows of organized religion in our society (what Shannyn Moore has dubbed X-ians), has lasted long enough to usher in a new Mayor, and regardless of how these Assembly proceedings pan out, will most likely result in a ballot measure for the public to vote on. But if we are unsuccessful in passing this ordinance, it will remove us from having an established precedent to base future attempts on. And, this legislation is absolutely still on the table and a risky choice, for the elected Assembly members, between constituents (long thought to be a minority) who fight for a better future within the Anchorage community, and crusaders (the alleged majority) who, in the case of one local church, the Northern Lights Baptist Temple, clearly state in their charter that religious law supercedes state and federal law, declaring a “sacred preeminence over all institutions of human origins.” Being above the law is granting special rights; granting equality is upholding civil rights.

Courtesy of Floridana Alaskiana v2.5 (and congrats!!)

Courtesy of Floridana Alaskiana v2.5 (and congrats!!)

Tomorrow, the struggle continues, and along with it all the sideshow highlights: the busing in from the valley, the faux-grass roots, mass produced, carbon copy signs delivered in a single red pick up truck, and the convenient childcare service that will, no doubt, form again outside on the lawn; equality opponents dropping their impressionable children off, who are forced to represent an inherited ideology independent of personal growth and development, to display messages of hate while Mom and Dad attend the meeting.

Inside, we have heard testimony that has cut deep into our LGBT community.

One sentiment that has profoundly struck me is the passionate debate regarding differences between this and other civil rights movements. On a personal note, I make a concentrated effort to keep the different movements separated. The Civil Rights Movement was its own struggle, as was the Womens Rights Movement. But, this is a civil rights issue of its own, and shouldn’t be dismissed as anything less. And to those who ask: “where are the fire hoses and where are the police dogs?” With all due respect, I would humbly submit in return: Is that what you need to see before you react?

I had trouble not reacting to a nurse, who offered testimony asserting that sexual orientation is social engineering on par with Nuremberg and the Tuskegee experiments. I had trouble with a dentist’s sudden outburst, saying “I don’t want gay folks putting their fingers in my mouth!” (That one really conflicted with my entire concept of modern dentistry, and caused panic that a proctologist might be next in line to speak) One gentleman boasted about having to be restrained after assaulting a gay man who, many would argue, just paid him a compliment (Would he have beaten a woman who hit on him too, if he didn’t find her satisfactory?). Possibly most audacious was hearing a terminal AIDS patient described as a “cesspool of life,” while in a similar description wee heard the disease (which has no sexual orientation or preference) defined as a complication due to a lifestyle. Abomination. Perversion. Deviance. And there’s been some talk about the fate of our restrooms, too.

Hate, in no way, results in the betterment of a society. And we are foolish if we pretend that Anchorage is somehow immune.

The vicious and twisted accusations put on display for this Assembly are followed up, often in the same breath, with the position that this is rushed legislation, and that we would be better served by an exploratory committee, and an issued report based on its findings. I would posit that any of us, including those who serve us on the Assembly, who have sat in these chambers over the past handful of meetings, or watched from home, our out in the lobby, have represented and effectively participated in such a committee. You can read the findings in the ADN, Anchorage Press, the Northern Light, Mudflats, Shannyn Moore, Celtic Diva, Henkimaa, Progressive Alaska, Immoral Minority, among countless others. We’ve explored every ugly side of this issue, both in fact, fiction, and deranged fantasy. And that all important report has already been filed. Through hearing this public testimony, we, as citizens have been shown, beyond a shadow of doubt, the dire necessity of equal rights legislation.

And we need to show the Assembly, Mayor Sullivan, our members of the state legislature, Senators Murkowski and Begich, Representative Young, incoming-Governor Parnell, the media, and each other, that we won’t go away.

See you all tomorrow.

-john

Courtesy of Floridana Alaskiana v2.5

Courtesy of Floridana Alaskiana v2.5


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