Archive for the ‘Other Support for Passage of the Ordinance’ Category

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Eleven Hours in a Library; the City Assembly Meeting on Equal Rights Ordinance

June 10, 2009

[Originally Posted on Alaska Commons]

What a day.

adn64pic2I just returned home after eleven hours at the Loussac Library, attending the first in what would appear to be culminating in a series of testimonial hearings on the current equal rights ordinance which would extend worker discrimination rights, as well as credit card and housing rights, to include sexual orientation (There was originally extension to the entirety of the LGBT community, and may very well be a new proposal to reinstate that, but that is neither here nor there at the moment).

Upon arrival, Heather and I met with up Mel from Henkimaa and joined a multitude of other faces that we have been absolutely privileged with the ability to call our friends. Over three hundred folks put their signature on the list of participants who wanted to be heard. Tonight afforded us the testimonies of over 80 of them. Many were not Anchorage residents, and simply were there to speak towards their beliefs and principles; LGBT from throughout the state who wanted to speak to the social ills which they have endured and the friendships and faith that have brought them through it, and church goers, predominantly from the valley and predominantly Baptist, who were bussed in in a coordinated effort by Reverend Prevo and his colleagues, to speak to their religious beliefs, and the infringement upon them that they fear this ordinance would cause.

It was already tense early in the afternoon as the seats started filling up. When the meeting started, we all were lulled into a sense state of delayed security while the minutes of previous meetings were read, a few items that could not wait were dealt with, and the assembly members went through a special circumstance situation of pushing other items on the agenda to future dates to accommodate the droves of people who were fulfilling their civic duty of having an opinion.

I have a lot of feelings on the aforementioned opinions that spanned across the hours that followed. I also have it all on tape, which means that everyone who was restricted to the overflow room (and subjected to hopelessly viewing and hearing everyone on the tiny screen), everyone who never made it in the doors, and everyone who had previous engagements— You get to relive it. As soon as I can transcribe it all, which I will do as soon as I can. Hopefully I will have it posted within the next few days, which begs the question, “How much Pete’s blend Major Dickason coffee can one man consume?”

I will tackle that immediately after I answer the same question regarding Jameson and sleep off an incredibly long and transformative day.

But, before that (or during), I wanted to touch on a couple of things that struck me. No doubt they P1010766will be covered more in depth as soon as I go through the tapes and match the sentiment with the audio, but they’re fresh in my head at the moment, and, as a musician at heart, I’m going to need to get them typed up if I have any shot (and many shots!) of getting sleep tonight.

First off, kudos to Assembly Chair Debbie Ossiander for presiding over such a remarkable task, and thanks to the Assembly as a whole… With an asterisk.

*Dan Coffey. Sir, it would truly help if you took your position on the assembly seriously. I know that you are leaving to join the incoming Sullivan administration, and I am fully aware that you were not very interested in attending this meeting. But, while you are a part of this assembly, and will have a vote on this ordinance provided that we can get through the testimonies and avoid a filibuster effect from the anti-ordinance crowd busing in people and eternally signing up to speak, the very least you can do is act the part. Mr. Assemblyman, you were barely even sitting behind your name tag half of the time. And when you did muster the serenity to calmly sit and listen to the people, on either side, your eyes virtually never left your computer screen. I ask you, sir, was it Solitaire? Warcraft? What was holding your attention so fixedly?

”][from adn]Secondly, should we be concerned that anyone was allowed to give testimony, regardless of resident status? Going into today, the vast consensus was that we would not reach a vote. The confirmation of this was not a surprise. However, only getting through eighty out of 300 plus three minute testimonies? There was, unquestioningly, some legitimate points made on each side that should be paid attention to, from people that reside outside of Anchorage. But, should they not be bringing their points, beliefs, and testimonies to their own assemblies? If everyone on the “waiting list” shows up again on June 16th to speak, we’re looking at easily another ten hours of testimony. And, as you’ll see when I am able to upload the transcripts from tonight, easily one third (a conservative estimate) was from out of town.

I will grant you that both sides had out of town representation regarding a bill restricted to Anchorage city limits, but for anyone who was there, and as I believe the transcripts will show, it would be very difficult to argue that it was even in displacement. While one out of state doctor argued the merits of the original wording of the ordinance and the importance of protection for  transgenders, and four or five parents spoke on behalf of children who had left the state claiming discrimination on account of being gay, there was a heavy contingent from the Mat-Su Valley, who reportedly arrived in buses, that helped bolster the ranks of the Jerry Prevo, Ron Hammon persuasion. In effect, it looked more like a filibuster than a string of testimonies.

Thirdly, there was a blatant inability to listen. Public speaking is not easy for most, and I give a lot of credit to those, especially, who obviously felt passionate enough about this ordinance to award it their first foray into that world. You could tell that a multitude of people had been preparing their words for days, weeks, months (and for some, years and decades). Please keep this in mind, as I am not trying to target anyone individually for putting themselves out there. But part of the trick of speaking effectively and productively is to listen and work from there. So many responses simply disregarded the heartfelt and tear filled testimonies that preceded them. Countless accusations that this was a “rushed ordinance” permeated throughout the assembly tonight. “What’s the rush?” “Let’s talk about it more!” Many of these statements were directly following the words of people who spoke in this same assembly room when the similar bill passed through in the seventies, and again when gay marriage was addressed in the nineties.  To these people, this is no where on the spectrum of rushed, hurried, or even snail-paced. But no one seemed to hear that.

Also, I have always battled the idea that this war of ideals is limited to one side screaming “Love” and the other countering with “Sin,” but those two points were in strong fashion tonight. And there comes a point where, after someone wears their heart on their sleeve and cries into the assembly room’s microphone, testifying to some of the worst treatment this side of Gitmo which they have endured just trying to live life as the person they believe they are… Having the next person simply walk up and talk about “sin” just seems like cruel and unusual punishment. Again, they didn’t seem to be listening.

These are the kinds of things civil rights are put into law to prevent.

And, finally, speaking of civil rights, the pro-ordinance side needs to let go of trying to define this civil rights movement through parallels with past civil rights movements. When you compare equal rights for the LGBT community with the Black Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Rights Movement, you devalue your civil rights movement and create wedges between yourself and those other communities. Do not take that to mean that this isn’t a process, or that it is any less significant of a movement. It is simply that we recognize our own struggles through our own identities, and we saw tempers rise when we conflated these different pushes throughout history. As love columnist and gay rights activist Dan Savage said last year when he was giving a lecture at the University of Alaska Anchorage (where I am a student), “This isn’t the Civil Rights Movement. It is however, A Civil Rights Movement. In fact, it’s our Civil Rights Movement.” And we need to treat it as such, and uphold the reverence and sanctity of each, and treat it as the gradual and painful process that it is.

As Vic Fischer, one of the framers of the Constitution of the state of Alaska, said tonight, (and I’m paraphrasing, but you can hold me to the spirit of it) times are changing. He reminded us that when he, alongside the Constitutional Congress, wrote our most fundamental of state documents, they were living in a quickly changing world, and had zero hopes of covering every problem that would inevitably confront us in time. That time has reached us. Mr. Fischer spoke of ending all discrimination; that this was the spirit of the constitution he took part in forming.

I can only imagine what twists will meet his words. Amidst the preservering Bathroom talk that was like an oscillating fan tonight, I fear that Mr. Fischer might have opened up Panbigot’s Box. I’m sure by next week, this ordinance, according to Prevo’s extremists, will ignore the discussion tonight and proclaim that through the statement that there should be an end to all discrimination, that this means beastiality, multiple wives, and midget porn in kindergarten classrooms is all back on the table.

Or did anyone actually listen tonight?

One last final thought. To those out there who support this issue, and in this case, I am strongly one of them, please do not make a public scene calling out your assembly members who choose to support this. As you will see in pictures and youtube accounts that will surely pop up over the coming days, this is an issue that has cost people their seats before and could easily do so again. Instead, I might propose that you send them a personal email of thanks, and maybe a promise that you will work extra hard to stay involved and help them stay in a position to represent our common interests and goals. Don’t think for a second that this is over after one vote.

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Isn’t There an Ice Floe Somewhere That Needs a Homophobic Preacher? [MUDFLATS]

June 4, 2009

mudflatsfirstpic[Originally Posted on Mudflats, used with Permission]

If there is such an ice floe, I know plenty of people who would gladly escort Jerry Prevo on to it, and ceremoniously shove him off the shore with their foot to a destination far far away…or perhaps to no destination at all.   Prevo, of the Anchorage Baptist Temple has been a notorious opponent of civil rights for the LGBT community in the past, and he shows no signs whatsoever of intellectual or moral evolution.  He does, however, continue to throw stones, embrace divisiveness, and can now take credit for this:

sos

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Is this a joke?  It looks like one, but alas, no.  There’s even a nice link to donate money.  So, while thoughts of men in dresses invading the public bathrooms frequented by your wives and daughters dance through your head; or you are kept awake at night by images of being forced to hire a sales team of gender non-specific humans who run you out of business …there is hope.  You can click that link and make a deposit right into the coffers of the Anchorage Baptist Temple.  Only your money will keep the city safe from THEM. You know…..(whispers) the ho-mo-sexuals! The price of safety can be paid right from your bank account to God’s open hand via Paypal.

I would like to believe that the majority of people in my city are better than this.  I would like to believe that most Anchorage residents allow their lives to be guided by something greater than fear.  I wish it were true that someone claiming to speak for Jesus wasn’t using his considerable influence to make people dislike each other, and judge each other, and fear each other.  Who Would Jesus Fire?  To whom would he deny housing?

Of course one of the things that Prevo forgets to tell you is that there is already a ban on discrimination for sexual orientation in public sector employment in Alaska.  Another thing they don’t tell you is that currently twenty states, the District of Columbia, and more than 140 counties and cities have legislation on the books banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.  Those states include such hot-beds of liberal decadence and mortal sin as Iowa, Indiana, Colorado, and Wisconsin (which was the first state to ban discrimination of this kind in 1982).

Prevo sent out an 8 page bulk fax on May 15, which began “Dear Community Leader.”  It went on in some detail to describe what “sexual orientation” really means, and how adopting it as part of a non-discrimination policy would mean the downfall of life as we know it in business, church life, restroom usage, charitable organizations, and schools.  Yes, schools.  Even our children will not be safe from guys in pumps and women using the men’s room.  The fax even asks the panicked question, in bold and all caps:

“WHAT WILL ADDING “SEXUAL ORIENTATION” DO TO THE ANCHORAGE SCHOOL BOARD’S ABILITY TO HAVE SOME STANDARDS OF CONDUCT AND DRESS OF TEACHERS AND STUDENTS?????”

Five question marks?  They must really want to know the answer to this one.  As a matter of fact, this question has caused many fearful Prevo followers to contact members of the school board and school district to demand some answers. Want to know how this ordinance will affect our kids?  Here’s part of the Anchorage School Board Update dated May 28, from Board member Jeff Friedman. (Emphasis is mine)

School Board Update May 28, 2009

The Municipal Assembly is considering a change to the Equal Rights ordinance to include sexual orientation as a protected class.  Whether it should adopt that change is a policy question for the Assembly to decide.  I am writing about this only because some people have raised a concern that this proposed change would have a large impact on the School District.  In my opinion, it would have no impact at all.  Eight years ago, the School Board added “sexual orientation” to its harassment/non-discrimination policy. Board Policy 114 (c).  Since we already have this policy in place, people do not need to be concerned about how the Assembly’s action might impact the school district.

Yes, this anti-discrimination policy has already been in place in the school district for eight years. So, is it possible that Mr. Prevo didn’t know this?  Unlikely.  But whether he knew or didn’t know is irrelevant, because Mr. Prevo is not in the business of peddling facts.  He is in the business of peddling fear.  Unfortunately,  people seem to want what he has to sell, and they are literally paying him for it.  The more frightened they are, the more money he makes.

What about Prevo’s and others’ religious beliefs?

Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Alaska, helped write the proposal. He said it contains a provision that allows organizations such as the Baptist Temple to legally refuse to hire people because their sexual preference conflicts with religious beliefs.

“It’s unfortunate when organizations want to muddy the water and misrepresent what an actual ordinance does or says,” Mittman said. “People should go to the ordinance themselves and read it.”

The Anchorage Assembly is holding a public hearing to discuss this issue on June 9.  So far, Assembly members have heard more from those who are afraid than those who are not.  Fear is a good motivator.  It’s one of the best.  My hope is that love can be a better motivator.  And if not love, then social justice.  And if not that, then a sense of fair play.  Or the desire that this community not be run roughshod over by people who think it’s OK to discriminate against their fellow human beings in the name of God.

This is not an issue of men wearing heels.   This is a civil rights issue, and those who seek to defeat it are doing so at the expense of a healthy community that protects all of its citizens.  Don’t let them.

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Paint This Town EQUAL!

June 3, 2009

[Originally Posted on the Alaska Commons]

Anchorage needs to return to its roots as an activist state, which looks after each other as their own, especially when those we elect to do so fail us so completely. We need to protect our neighbors when corrupted leadership acts solely in their own independent interest, especially in times when those in leadership positions do so in ways which are billed as necessary for the safety of society, but truly serve against our best interest.

We find ourselves in such a position; being lied to by the leader of Anchorage’s largest church, Anchorage Baptist Temple Pastor Jerry Prevo, who boasts a congregation of over 2,000, who he has personally enlisted from his pulpit to ensure that our own neighbors are not recognized as full and equal persons under the law, and instead hoisted for all to see as the perversions and abominations they are; seeking to infiltrate our public restrooms to act out heinous acts of vulgarity, earn wages that were put in place for “normal” people, and help educate our children in schools that have been largely failing them.

We cannot turn to our incoming mayor, Dan Sullivan, who has remained conveniently silent beyond his statement during the campaign that he did not support Gay Marriage. His own father, Mayor George Sullivan, vetoed an identical bill that passed through the city assembly in the seventies, giving into Prevo’s venomous statements three decades ago. To Prevo this could be a mulligan. To Sullivan, this could be inherited discrimination. With Matt Claman, who supports this ordinance, as acting Mayor now, this means that we cannot afford to wait either.

We cannot turn to our Governor. During the Presidential election, her debate with Joe Biden revealed her reluctance to commit to one side or the other, stating that she was unequivocably opposed to gay marriage, but that she was “tolerant.” Sarah Palin, who was so quick to stand up for Miss California Carrie Prejean’s comments about gay marriage, is expectedly silent in regards to extending equal rights in Anchorage, even though a 2005 census put the number of LGBT Alaskan residents at above 19,000 (Williams Institute UCLA School of Law). Sarah Palin, proving more and more each day that she is more of an ideological wedge than an elected representative accountable for the issues that challenge the progression of her state,  is much more concerned with her standing with SarahPAC, national polls,  and a beauty pageant contestant, and more comfortable turning her back on the basic civil rights that many in Anchorage are working so passionately and dilligently to afford to nearly 20,000 of her own constituents. Alaskans.

Alaska needs to surpass the societal constraints put in place by these leaders who have lost their way and their passion to improve and enrich our home, and now wish only to relish in the power they have attained at our expense; to hear the sound of their own voices and see if We the People will play fetch.  Once again, we need to find our own voice. We need to speak for Alaska, and not corruption.

It is not too late to let the assembly members know how you feel. They represent us. Make them do it. And do it yourself! There’s no better time to engage in a bit of citizen activism. Paint this town equal!

Folks, the deadline is approaching. The city assembly meets, one week from tomorrow, Tuesday June 9th, at the Loussac Library, Assembly Chambers 1st Floor (36th & Denali).

The assembly will begin hearing testimony at 5pm. The great folks over at EqualityWorks.org suggest that if you plan on offering testimony, you should plan on being there absolutely no later than 4:30pm. I would further suggest that if you wish to get in the door, you might lean more towards 4pm.

Anthony Downs concluded in the 1950s that it is irrational to vote. But that time of complacence, assumption, patience, and indifference has come and gone. This is in our hands, Anchorage.

[On a side note, please check out Mudflats, Shannyn Moore, and other prolific articles by Alaskan bloggers regarding this issue! Also, I might recommend this site’s sister site, SOSAnchorage.net, put together by my fiance and myself to respond to some of Prevo’s more inflamatory claims]