On Tuesday, April 21, Alaskans Together for Equality (ATE), Alaska's statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender educational and advocacy organization gave its full endorsement to Ethan Berkowitz for the office of Anchorage Mayor. Our decision was an easy one.
When it comes to earning a living, having a place to live, or being served by a business or government office, LGBT Alaskans should be treated like anyone else and not be discriminated against. The Anchorage we seek to live and work and play in is based in fairness and equality.
Ethan Berkowitz has publicly stated his commitment to adding legal protections for LGBT residents in employment, housing, and public accommodations. He understands the reality of discrimination against LGBT Anchorage residents and regularly meets with LGBT leaders and allies to strategize solutions. Ethan’s vision for our city matches that of the majority of residents - inclusion is good for schools, for communities, and for business.
Under Ethan’s leadership, it is highly possible that LGBT individuals will achieve legal and lived equality in our city.
On the other hand, if Amy Demboski wins, Anchorage will be a very different place.
Amy has made it abundantly clear that she does not think discrimination exists. She is not educated on the facts, nor has she taken the time to walk across the street from her campaign headquarters to meet with LGBT leaders and learn the facts.
The 2012 Anchorage LGBT Discrimination Study found that 44% of gay and transgender Alaskans have been harassed by their employer or other employees — 16% to the point of actually feeling forced to leave their jobs. In terms of housing discrimination, 18.7% of the survey respondents had been harassed by their landlord or other tenants, with rates two times higher for transgender Alaskans.
Just because an elected official does not personally experience or witness discrimination, does not make it non-existent. Study after study of these experiences has made it clear that LGBT Alaskans significantly experience discrimination.
Amy is out of touch with the majority of Alaskans. According to a poll conducted by BalanceAK in September 2014, 57% of Alaskans agree that LGBT Alaskans should be legally protected from discrimination. Under her leadership, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for LGBT individuals to achieve legal and lived equality in our city. Your gay and transgender friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors will continue to be denied housing, fired from their jobs, and treated unfairly by businesses and government agencies.
Extreme groups, like the Mat-Su-based “Alaska Republican Assembly Federal PAC” and Alaska Family Action, have indicated that if Amy is elected, not only will she ensure that gay and transgender Alaskans remain vulnerable, she will bring Indiana- and Arkansas-style religious exemptions to our already-standing laws.
Freedom of religion is important; that is why it is already protected by the First Amendment in the Constitution. But the rule of law is also important, and we cannot let people decide to refuse to follow laws they do not like. Our laws work when everyone knows that they apply to everyone in the same way. Creating religious loopholes for certain individuals just undermines the rule of law for everyone.
Expanding religious exemption laws would open a can of worms with serious legal consequences - making our complicated legal system even more complex. Frivolous lawsuits would clog up the courts and waste significant taxpayer money, and we would see never-ending legal challenges by people abusing the system - like those who would make up religious beliefs to get out of following the law.
This is a critical election. We’re not going to become the next great city unless we have forward-thinking leadership. Every resident needs to vote by May 5 for Ethan Berkowitz.
Paid for by Alaskans Together for Equality, P.O. Box 202453, Anchorage, AK 99520. This communication is approved by Camden Yehle, Board President. This NOTICE TO VOTERS is required by Alaska law. I certify that this communication is not authorized, paid for, or approved by any candidate.