Posts Tagged ‘alaska commons’

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The Time Has Come…

October 16, 2009

The time has come, the blogger said, to speak of lots of stuff

Of how since ’64 is dead, relevancy has been tough

So now we’ll merge this site with his, join the alaskacommons crew

And hopefully have a bit more time to make a difference for you.

Unity for the Anchorage Community

Unity for the Anchorage Community

So I’m not a poet, I’m a blogger, and a neglectful one at that.  SOSanchorage.net is going to be merging with alaskacommons.com, and here’s why it’s a good thing:

  • The battle for the Equal Rights ordinance may be over for now, but simplifying the blogging process will allow more time to work on real-life projects that will further the cause.
  • Merging the two blogs will allow for more frequent updates, instead of simply re-posting things on either site.
  • We feel like we’ll be able to write more relevant articles for the community if we broaden our scope a bit.

I’m hoping that if there are still any readers left (I know it’s been a few weeks since the last post) you’ll follow us over to The Alaska Commons, where we will continue to try to keep the community updated on events and issues of note.  Don’t worry, every post on this blog will be moving to alaskacommons as well, so if you’re interested in reading up on our perspective on the Summer of ’64 you’ll still be able to do so.

I’ve been glad to be a part of this.  It’s one of the things I’m most proud of.

Thank you.

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Liveblogging from the Assembly Hall August 11, 2009

August 11, 2009

We’re liveblogging again from inside the Assembly Hall at the Loussac Library. The Assembly is moving quickly through the agenda, or the “aggenda” as sosanchorage.com puts it.

6:24pm
The Assembly is currently discussing an ordinance regarding insurance coverage for the spouses of certain police officers and fire fighters. Harriet Drummond made mention of how many people are sympathetic to the concerns of anyone having difficulty with health insurance right now, and that she believed that President Obama is working hard to ease those concerns for everyone. At the mention of Obama’s name, lots of “rabble rabble rabble” noises erupted from the red shirt contingent. It was rather amusing.

6:32pm
After making comparisons between his own insurance coverage and that of the police and firefighters, stating that after he dies his would have to pay 100% of her own insurance, Ms Selkregg pointed out that unlike the spouses of the officers and firemen, his wife would have the option to buy into his insurance. The whole matter is rather complicated, but none of the Assembly seem heated about it.

7:00pm

Discussing a school budget proposal, I think we’re witnessing the spill-over from the general Town Hall rantings that have been going on across the country. Lots of podium smacking.  The budget was approved anyway.

7:10pm

We’re on a break, and then we’ll be talking about the Equal Rights Ordinance.

7:35pm

Assemblyman Coffey is proposing his floor bill for setting up a “task force” to investigate discrimination in Anchorage.  Assemblywoman Selkregg regrets that “we didn’t begin this way.”  She appreciates Mr. Coffey’s efforts to do the right thing, but she won’t support it.  Mr. Gutierrez echoes those sentiments.

7:40pm

Assemblywoman Drummond just moved to vote on the Task Force until after a decision is made on the Equal Rights ordinance.  The motion failed.  The vote on the resolution itself also failed 4-7.

7:43pm

Mr. Flynn moves to approve Ordinance AO 64 (S2).  He believes (and so do I) that this is the best version of the bill.  It protects religious organizations to hire employees compatible with their values.  It also more explicitly protects the GLBT community.  Ms Selkregg speaks for this version of the ordinance.

7:50pm

Ms Johnston is speaking about how the person who taught her about civil responsibility would have been covered by the ordinance.  In honor of this person and Matt Rose, she will support the ordinance.  A very touching story.

7:52pm

Mr. Birch doesn’t believe that GLBT discrimination is an issue, and seems to resent the fact that the discussion has take up so much time.

7:54pm

Mr. Gutierrez mentiosn that this has been an interesting and difficult process.  He’s proud to live in a community where people on both sides of the issue who had enough courage to come down and give testimony.   He will support version S2 because he thinks it is a good compromise.

8:00pm

Mr. Flynn spoke about the mailman that served his neighborhood, Glen.  Glen always did a good job, was a pleasant guy, and everyone liked him.  Mr. Flynn recieved a note from Glen thanking him for what he is trying to do for the community.  Unfortunately, Glen was moving to a more progressive city to retire.

8:01pm

Mr. Claman supports the ordinance and urges Mayor Sullivan to support it if it passes.  Mr. Starr doesn’t believe that overt discrimination exists (as he doesn’t see any signs saying “No Gays Allowed” around town) so we will not support the ordinance.  He believes in God and his faith, and he says he listened intently to what was said to him.

8:05pm

Ms Gray-Jackson doesn’t want to speak to0 much about why she’s supporting this ordinance, as it’s too emotional for her.  Her nephew is gay, and she’s known he was gay since he was young.  She urges her fellow Assemblymembers to support it as well.

8:06pm

Ms. Drummond is speaking about her experiences being on the school board, where they teach children to accept each other.  She isn’t willing to tell those children that once they leave school they are no longer protected within the community.

8:08pm

Ms Ossiander is speaking about her experiences with people on both sides of this issue.  She believes in protecting and respecting all of Anchorage’s citizens.  She tried to look into the data, but she discovered that there isn’t any data as this is not a protected status.  She looked into what is covered under Federal Title 7, which protects against discrimination in businesses with over 15 employees.  She asked the Equal Rights commision to start compiling data last week, and still supports the idea of a task force to investigate discrimination.  She doesn’t believe that the ordinance will stop hurtful behavior.   She is concerned about the language regarding transgendered people.  She isn’t sure if it will create a cost to businesses.

8:20pm

Ms Ossiander says there isn’t an easy answer.  She can’t support the S2 version.  She is upset.  Ms Selkregg is proposing an amendment: respecting the bathroom issue.  Basically, making it so that businesses can maintaiin gender separated bathrooms as well as dresscodes.

8:25pm

Mr. Gutierrez is telling Ms Ossiander that she has handled this situation as well as she could have. Standing ovation.

8:27pm

The measure passed, 7-4.

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A message from Equality Works: Support the new S-2 version of Ordinance 64

August 1, 2009

No more public hearings! Thanks to all of you who sat through hour after hour of tiring and often painful testimony over the last two months. As hard as it was, I think it would have been much harder to do without feeling a sense of connection with others in the room who support equality. Over the weeks, people started to recognize familiar faces and strike up friendships and other forms of political collaboration that might last for a long time. So while we might wish that we hadn’t been forced to sit through all the hearings, I hope that we have emerged from it with a better understanding of who makes up the LGBT community and with a greater appreciation for the allies who stuck with us over the months.

As we move into August, and into a new (hopefully shorter) phase of this campaign, here are a few things you could do to bring Equality to Anchorage:

Call or E-Mail Mayor Sullivan and Write a Letter to the Editor

Have you contacted the Mayor yet?

Have you contacted the Mayor yet?

Mayor Sullivan hasn’t publicly stated what he will do if the ordinance reaches his desk, but he needs to know that people in Anchorage support equality, he needs to know why you support equality, and he needs to hear that vetoing an ordinance to protect LGBT people from discrimination sends the message that he, as the Mayor of Anchorage, believes that LGBT people should be discriminated against in employment, housing, education, and public accommodations. If he doesn’t want to send that message, then he should not veto this ordinance. If you havent already, please, please, please call or e-mail Mayor Sullivan at mayor@muni.org or call (907) 343-7170 or (907) 343-7100.

Please, remember to be respectful. No one responds positively to insults, accusations, or anger.

And if youve already contacted the mayor, please revise your letter accordingly and send it to the Anchorage Daily News.

New S-2 version of the ordinance

For those of you who dont know already, an S-2 version of the ordinance has been submitted for consideration by Patrick Flynn:

http://www.muni.org/iceimages/Assembly2/AO%202009-64_S-2_-FLYNN-HC-081109.pdf

We believe that his is a strong revision that acknowledges the concerns of some in the religious community by broadening the religious exemption, but does not weaken the original intention of the ordinance to protect LGBT people from discrimination. It includes employment protections for our entire community–including transgender individuals. Please call or e-mail your Assembly members and tell them to put their support behind the S-2 version. We want to make sure that this version of the ordinance is the one that is debated and eventually voted upon. You can find there contact information here:

http://www.muni.org/iceimages/Assembly2/2009assemblycontactlist.pdf

August 11th Meeting

The next Assembly meeting is August 11th. While the agenda has not been officially set yet, this very well may be the day that Assembly members get to a debate and vote on AO 64. It would be great to have as many supporters as possible inside the Assembly Chambers so that they can see how many people care about this issue. You know the drill: Blue shirts, Equality Works buttons. We will keep you posted once the agenda is set and/or if plans change.

It’s very likely you will see this message posted on other blogs and sites supporting this measure.  This is important enough that we want to be repetitive.  If you haven’t contacted Mayor Sullivan or your Assemblyperson, please  take the time to do so.  And if you live in Eagle River or Chugiak, please email us as soon as possible!


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Call to Action: Eagle River and Chugiak Allies

July 31, 2009

Do you live in Eagle River or Chugiak?  Do you know anyone who does that supports the Equal Rights ordinance?

Anyone from Section 2 (Eagle River, Chugiak) who supports Anchorage Ordinance 64, we need your help.  This is a time-sensitive issue, so please contact us as soon as possible!  We need you to speak up, before it’s too late!

Please email us!

The clock is ticking....can you help?

The clock is ticking....can you help?

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Hate Crime Hulabaloo

July 28, 2009

There has been a lot of talking within the past week about the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was approved by the U.S. Congress on Thursday, July 23. This act is part of a larger Defense Spending bill that will have to go through a House-Senate committee to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions. Both of Alaska’s Senators, Begich and Murkowski, supported the bill, and by proxy, the Matthew Shepard Act. Good on them.

Matthew Shepard

Matthew Shepard

Jason Marsden, Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, explains that the act “provides grants and law-enforcement assistance to local governments to prevent hate crimes based on victims’ sexual orientation or gender identity, and allows federal prosecutions where local authorities cannot or will not secure convictions.” There have been some amendments tacked on to the act in recent days, however. From the Philadelphia Gay News:

“This week, Sen. Jeffrey Sessions (R-Ala.) introduced a series of amendments in an apparent attempt to derail the bill.

Sessions’ amendments stipulate that the U.S. Attorney General identify and prosecute hate crimes on a “neutral and objective” basis; that those who commit a hate crime that results in death be eligible for the death penalty; and that hate-crimes protections be extended to military members and their families.

The Senate approved the first two measures in a voice vote and voted 92-0 in a roll call to approve the third amendment.

Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) proposed a successful amendment that allows for stricter implementation of the death-penalty stipulation.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, asserted that Sessions’ death-penalty amendment was designed to prevent the passage of the bill and called that tactic “disingenuous, outrageous and immoral.”

Senator Sessions

Senator Sessions

Sen. Sessions has shoved his foot in the door and allowed in the threat of the death penalty in order to add confusion to the issue.  Many of the groups that support this bill, such as the Human Rights Campaign, are opposed to the death penalty.  Adding this amendment takes the intentions of the bill further than they were meant to go, fanning the flames of fear-mongers that feel this bill, and other hate-crime legislation, turns law-enforcement into “thought police.”  Carter Clewes, in an opinion piece to the San Francisco Examiner, accuses the Senate of rushing through the bill in order to protected “special classes” that do not include the white, heterosexual male.  Mr. Clewes, also the Director of Communications for Americans for Limited Government, continued that “By singling out some for special protection and consigning others to malicious prosecution, the Obama-Holder tandem is ringing down the curtain on “equal justice under law,” raising the specter of a country where a small minority of privileged characters (blacks make up approximately 12 percent of the population, homosexuals 2 percent) receive preferential treatment as ‘special victims.’”

Link here for another charming article from the Philadelphia Enquirer

Link here for another charming article from the Philadelphia Enquirer

It’s not that I want to accuse those that oppose legal protections to minorities as being bigoted, it’s that they don’t leave me another option.  You kind of lose whatever moral ground you have with me if the only argument you can raise is that “the rights of prejudice for white, heterosexual males will be limited.”  As someone married to a white, heterosexual male, I can attest that not all of them are ignorant bigots, but they do seem to have to shoulder the blame for those that are on a daily basis.

Diane Dimond, of the Huffington Post, argues that the classification of “hate crime” distracts law enforcement from the true goal, which should be prevention.  “Hate is the name of the game when it comes to crime. We don’t need a fancy label on it. We need to figure out how to make it socially unacceptable.”  I agree with her sentiments, but I feel that it’s equally unreasonable to believe that classifying certain acts as “hate crimes” is ineffective.  People who commit hate crimes are focused on what, not who, their victim is.  Their crime is more heinous because the ulterior motive is to cause the most harm possible, as opposed to causing harm as a means to an end.  Yes, the victim is still victimized in both circumstances, but I feel that they should be judged differently.

Jos, a contributor to femisting.com wrote an article entitled Why I don’t support hate crime legislation. She explains her point well:

“It is important to recognize violence motivated by bigotry, and difficult to see alternatives to hate crime convictions as a means to this end. A sense of justice for the family and friends of people who have been killed because of their sexuality or gender identity is also valuable. But the ultimate goal should be to end such violence. Harsher sentencing does not decrease the amount of hate crimes being committed. A focus on sentence enhancement for these crimes does nothing for prevention. Putting our energy toward promoting harsher sentencing takes it away from the more difficult and more important work of changing our culture so that no one wants to kill another person because of their perceived membership in a marginalized identity group.”

It is important to recognize violence motivated by bigotry, and difficult to see alternatives to hate crime convictions as a means to this end. A sense of justice for the family and friends of people who have been killed because of their sexuality or gender identity is also valuable. But the ultimate goal should be to end such violence. Harsher sentencing does not decrease the amount of hate crimes being committed. A focus on sentence enhancement for these crimes does nothing for prevention. Putting our energy toward promoting harsher sentencing takes it away from the more difficult and more important work of changing our culture so that no one wants to kill another person because of their perceived membership in a marginalized identity group.

My sentiments exactly.

My sentiments exactly.

I did find a large amount of support for this legislation.  The editors of The Jewish Week published an online article, Hate Crimes Bill, Long Overdue, in which they try to calm the fears and rumors that have been spreading about how this bill might affect religious organizations:

” The new law would allow greater federal involvement in investigating hate crimes and extend the coverage of existing hate crimes statutes to crimes based on gender, disability and sexual orientation. It’s that last category that has sparked the ire of conservative Christian leaders, who claim — incorrectly and outrageously — that the measure would bar ministers from preaching against homosexuality, essentially criminalizing the act of calling homosexuality a sin.

High Impact Leadership Coalition

High Impact Leadership Coalition

In fact, the bill has nothing to do with speech, only with acts of criminal violence. Additional language to ensure that religious rights are respected has been added to a measure that already was cautiously worded to avoid that problem.

Also contrary to the claims of these groups, this is not a “gay rights” bill despite its name — the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, named after the young gay man murdered in Wyoming in 1998.  The new law is necessary because of an inadequate patchwork of state hate crimes laws, which means there are places where crimes against groups that face local biases are treated as less serious offenses.”

Does any of this sound familiar?

Catherine Robinson, of the Hillsborough County Examiner, takes it further.  “The Department of Justice will have the power to go after bias-motivated offenses and give important federal assistance to states, local jurisdictions, and Indian tribes.  No worries, haters. Your First Amendment rights to shout, blog or write nasty views will not be threatened. The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 is important. It declares paramount the values of tolerance, acceptance and peace.”

I just wanted to show you, readers, that other groups in the country are working toward the same goals we are, to make our communities safer for all of their residents.  The rhetoric we’ve heard from Jerry Prevo’s group is not new or unique, and they are in the minority around the country.  Take heart in what you’re doing to help this cause.  If you feel beaten down, look to others who share in your struggle, and take strength.  We’re only a click away.

From Floridana Alaskiana's excellent gallery.

From Floridana Alaskiana's excellent gallery.

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Testimonies are over!

July 22, 2009

Matthew ShepardWith a great big sigh of relief, I am happy to announce that the Assembly has closed the window on offering testimony on Ordinance 64.  I was the third to last person to speak, and it was much more intimidating being up there than I had given it credit for.  I threw out my carefully prepared speech in the essence of speed and quality over quantity.  I made mention of a great step forward for equal rights that I will share with you tonight.

The Matthew Shepard Act, known officially as the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, passed through the U.S. Congress today.  This bill will expand the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.  In addition to that, the bill will remove the current prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally-protected activity, like voting or going to school.  It will give federal authorities greater ability to engage in hate crimes investigations that local authorities choose not to pursue.  It will require the FBI to track statistics on hate crimes against transgender people (statistics for the other groups are already tracked).  I have borrowed this liberally from wikipedia, so if any of this information is inaccurate, please let me know as soon as possible.

This is a very good day for equal rights.  Revel in with me, just a little.

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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