By JIM MINNERY | ALASKA FAMILY COUNCIL
Republicans are good at getting elected to majorities in the State House and Senate. As far as organizing around common goals and strategies? Not so much.
It seems like there are always a few Republicans (you know who you are) who give Democrats in the minority power and when that happens, the agreement is “Let’s agree not talk about the ‘controversial’ social issues like abortion and the LGBTQIA+ agenda.” But that doesn’t always go as planned either.
Recently, HB 99, a bill to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the State’s anti-discrimination list, made it out of two House Committees with help from Republicans Justin Ruffridge from Soldotna and Jesse Sumner from Wasilla. Interestingly, those are the two most conservative leaning areas of the state.
Alaska Family Action has been opposing sexual orientation and gender identity laws for many years and for good reason. To make it very local, this bill is identical to an ordinance in Anchorage that led to the extended harassment of the Downtown Hope Center for the “crime” of not allowing a biological man to sleep in a shelter for abused women. This disastrous policy should not be imposed on the entire state.
In addition, sexual orientation and gender identity laws like HB 99:
- Trample fundamental liberties and unnecessarily impinge individuals’ rights to live in ways consistent with their values.
- Ban disagreement on LGBT issues by enforcing a sexual orthodoxy and treat reasonable actions as discriminatory.
- Do not protect equality before the law; instead, they grant special privileges that are enforceable against private actors.
- Threaten to punish individuals and businesses simply because they decline to engage in speech, or participate in events, that violate their religious beliefs or personal convictions.
Similar laws have had disastrous consequences in other states and cities. Instead of ending discrimination, HB 99 will authorize and encourage discrimination to occur against religious institutions and other private citizens, based only on their decision to operate their businesses, schools, organizations and professional careers in a manner that is consistent with their consciences.
The State anti-discrimination law has long prohibited discrimination in housing (which includes rentals and sales), employment, and public accommodations on the basis of certain classifications (i.e. certain protected classes of people). The classifications are race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex, physical or mental disability, marital status, changes in marital status, pregnancy, or parenthood.
All of the modern day extra classifications of “gender identity,” “gender expression,” and “sexual orientation,” are not included.
The fact that those latter classifications are not included in the statute is why the Alaska State Human Resources Commission has been declining to accept complaints regarding discrimination on the basis of those classifications. To be clear, that is the very reason why HB 99 has been introduced which is to add those classifications to the statute.
Although Sumner hasn’t justified his reason, Ruffridge has let some people, including this writer, know why he voted in support of HB 99. “Bizarrely,” Ruffridge states, “there have been some who claim this bill allows men to enter women’s restrooms. It does not do anything of the kind.”
Actually, the only bizarre thing is his claim that this bill won’t force establishments (public accommodations like restaurants, private offices, commercial and state buildings, schools both public and private when they host sporting events to make their bathrooms and locker rooms open to any and all persons without regard to biological gender.
Not all bathrooms are public accommodations, but a whole heck of a lot of them are. Any restroom or locker room that is affiliated with a business that caters to the public (or to part of the public) or a public venue (think Alaska Club, or schools that host sporting events like basketball games, etc.) will be prohibited from discriminating (i.e., excluding) any male who identifies as a woman (the classification of gender identity) from entering and using a women’s rest room or locker room.
When Ruffridge says the “bill has absolutely nothing to do with bathrooms,” he is flat out wrong.
The law prohibits discrimination in “public accommodations” (See A.S. 18.80.230) on the basis of whatever the list of classifications are in the statute. A whole lot of bathrooms fit the bill as “public accommodations.” (see above).
If amended as the current bill proposes, the statute would even prohibit placing a sign on a bathroom or locker room door that suggest some aren’t allowed to enter (think putting a sign on bathroom or locker room doors that say “Women” or “Men”).
When Ruffridge says HB 99 “has absolutely nothing to do with … the safety of women and children” he might want to take notice of the publicized cases from back east where young girls were attacked and raped in school bathrooms by so-called transgender students.
He might also want to ask women how safe they feel having a guy with a penis who claims to be a woman undressing in front of them in a bathroom of locker room.
Ruffridge says that HB 99 does “NOT make LGBTQ individuals a protected class” and yet that is exactly what the law does. The following classifications are clearly and unambiguously added to the statute: “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” “gender expression,” “sexual orientation.”
Fortunately, HB 99 will likely not survive in House Judiciary, the next committee it’s been assigned to. But many questions will remain as to why Jesse Sumner and Justin Ruffridge parted ways with the majority of Alaskans in their districts.
Jim Minnery is executive director of Alaska Family Council.