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Alaska Lawmakers Pass LGBT Anti-Discrimination Law: 'Some People View This As A Moral Issue, We View It As An Economic Issue'

Lawmakers in Anchorage have passed a law making it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of gender identity or sexual orientation, the first law of its kind in Alaska, officials said.
The Anchorage Assembly voted 9-2 late on Tuesday to add sexual orientation and gender identity to its municipal law ensuring equal opportunity in Alaska's largest city, said Assembly Member Patrick Flynn, who co-authored the ordinance. Reuters

Lawmakers in Anchorage have passed a law making it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of gender identity or sexual orientation, the first law of its kind in Alaska, officials said.

The Anchorage Assembly voted 9-2 late on Tuesday to add sexual orientation and gender identity to its municipal law ensuring equal opportunity in Alaska's largest city, said Assembly Member Patrick Flynn, who co-authored the ordinance.

"Some people view these as moral issues, I tend to view them as an economic issue," Flynn said. "If you want to be part of our community and you add value, we welcome you."

The new ordinance comes after a similar measure, passed in 2009, was vetoed by then-Mayor Dan Sullivan, and another measure guaranteeing similar protections to municipal employees that passed in 1993 was later repealed.

The city already bars discrimination over race, color, sex, and religion, among other distinctions, according to the statute, which will take effect when its signed by Assembly Chair Dick Traini.

The ordinance adds protections for gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people in employment, housing, and other areas, though it includes religious exemptions.

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz has the power to veto the ordinance but has not indicated he would do so, Flynn said.

"We have joined the vanguard of over 200 cities that say you should not be fired or lose your home simply based on who you are or whom you love," Alaskans Together for Equality, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, and other groups said in a joint statement.

"While Anchorage is the first city in Alaska with these protections, it will not be the last," the groups said.

Assembly Members Bill Starr and Amy Demboski, who local media said opposed the measure, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Opponents are pursuing a referendum to repeal the law, local media reported.