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Anchorage mayor vetoes LGBT discrimination bill
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Anchorage mayor vetoes LGBT discrimination bill

by James Whitely - SGN Contributing Writer

On August 17, Anchorage, Alaska Mayor Dan Sullivan vetoed the Anchorage Assembly's recent ordinance to ban discrimination against LGBT people in Anchorage.

Proposition 64 - introduced on May 12 by then-acting Mayor Matt Claman, who is now one of the voting supporters of Prop 64 on the assembly - would have added LGBT people to the city's current anti-discrimination ordinance, which pertains to education, employment, public accommodations, the sale and rental of property, to name a few.

A small crowd of demonstrators with rainbow flags rallied at City Hall after the expected veto was announced, demanding an override.

The Anchorage Assembly had voted 7-4 to approve an already compromised version of the ordinance August 11. The measure now needs to go back to the Assembly, where eight votes are needed to override Sullivan's veto. The Assembly had 21 days as of August 17 to take up the ordinance again. Their next convening will be August 25.

The two members who authored slightly different versions of the anti-discrimination ordinance said they were doubtful of an eighth vote, and therefore an override.

In a written statement, Sullivan said he was not convinced that "discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation exists here. & My review shows that there is clearly a lack of quantifiable evidence necessitating this ordinance. My review also shows that the vast majority of those who communicated their position & are in opposition."

"As elected officials, we are charged with reflecting the will of the community in our decisions, particularly in the absence of compelling data that would supersede that will," said Sullivan.

A spokesperson for Equality Works, Jackie Buckley, said, "This was an opportunity. It was good for business, so Anchorage could attract and retain the best employees and customers. This is a giant step backwards by the mayor."

Equality Works is an Anchorage coalition of organizations working to protect Anchorage citizens from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Claman, the introducer and primary supporter on the assembly, stated that Sullivan "is wrong if he thinks discrimination against Gays doesn't exist here [in Anchorage]. More than 20 hours of public hearings over several meetings since early June produced ample evidence that the legislation is needed." Claman added that he heard "compelling evidence from many people who came and testified that they had been discriminated against."

More than 700 people signed up to testify about the measure.

"Somebody observed that the opponents of the ordinance had essentially engaged in what you could call a public filibuster" until Sullivan became mayor, Claman said. "I think the right to do that is protected under the charter."

It is important to note that Mayor Sullivan's father, Mayor George Sullivan, vetoed a similar ordinance in 1975, the city's first attempt to add sexual orientation to the city's equal rights laws. The younger Sullivan, who took office on July 1, seems to be carrying on the tradition of discrimination.

The Anchorage Assembly has just less than three weeks to come up with an eighth vote, which would override the Mayor's veto. Supporters believe it looks unlikely.

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