FAIRBANKS, Alaska - February 27, 2019 -- On Monday, Alaska’s Golden Heart City has lived up to its name, declaring that prejudice and discrimination will find no welcome in the Tanana Valley.
The Fairbanks City Council on February 25 voted 4-2 to pass Ordinance 6093, joining Anchorage, Juneau, and Sitka in approving inclusive legal protections against discrimination. The Mayor has until Saturday to determine whether or not he will veto the ordinance.
Under new code created by the ordinance, the City of Fairbanks will ban discrimination based on race, color, age, religion, familial status, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, ethnicity, and national origin.
Residents in four of Alaska’s five largest cities are now protected by local non-discrimination laws. But the state and federal governments have yet to catch up with these communities in ensuring the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) citizens.
“Every Alaskan should enjoy the same basic rights that were just ratified by the City of Fairbanks,” said Elias Rojas, board president of Alaskans Together for Equality (ATE). “Fairbanks is another one of our Alaska cities that understands the importance of protecting all its citizens from discrimination."
“The fact that these actions have to be taken at the local level serves as a reminder of the lack of legal protections for LGBTQ people across the state and country. As a state, as I have said before, we still have more work to do to ensure that those who need protection from discrimination are covered.”
Alaska is one of 28 states with no statewide nondiscrimination law protecting LGBTQ citizens. During the previous legislative session, two bills the Alaska Equality Act — House Bill 184 and Senate Bill 72 — would have added LGBTQ citizens as a protected class under Alaska’s existing civil rights law, which prohibits discrimination in housing, employment, credit, financing, and public accommodations. The Alaska Equality Act — House Bill 184, in a historic first, passed through the House Health and Social Services Committee but died in the Judiciary committee without a vote.
In a recent poll, Alaska residents were unequivocal in their support for LGBTQ protections, with 54 percent of respondents statewide supporting non-discrimination protections for their LGBTQ family, friends, and neighbors.
“Alaskans Together for Equality is celebrating with the people of Fairbanks. We applaud the great work of our local partners — Gender Pioneers, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fairbanks, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, Christians for Equality Fairbanks, the ACLU of Alaska, and PFLAG Fairbanks — along with the mayor and supportive City Council members and local community leaders,” Rojas said. “We will continue to work with lawmakers across the political spectrum to pass long overdue nondiscrimination legislation at the local, state, and federal level until all Alaskans are legally guaranteed the right to be treated fairly.”
UPDATED (3/1/19 10:31 a.m.): Sadly, we have been informed that Mayor Matherly has vetoed the nondiscrimination ordinance. Stay tuned. Read more at: https://www.fairbanksalaska.us/mayor/page/veto-ordinance-6093
UPDATED (3/1/19 11:00 a.m.): "We are very disappointed in Mayor Matherly's decision to veto of Ordinance 6093. A clear majority of the City Council supported it. More than 80 percent of the public who expressed their opinion on Ordinance 6093 were in favor of it. We hope Mayor Matherly reconsiders this decision."