JUNEAU, Alaska -- Equal protection under the law came one step closer to reality for LGBT Alaskans on Tuesday when House Bill 82, legislation that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s existing anti-discrimination law, passed its first committee.
After hearing public testimony, the House State Affairs Committee voted 4-2 to advance HB 82. Reps. Zack Fields, Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, Andi Story, and Adam Wool voted in favor; Reps. Sarah Vance and Laddie Shaw opposed. Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux was not present.
Several of Alaska’s largest communities have already passed LGBT protections at the local level, but currently Alaska is one of 30 states that do not provide any statewide protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. A majority of Alaskans support such a law, according to an April 2017 Public Policy Polling survey, and AK Ledger’s John Aronno reports that members of the public testified at Tuesday’s hearing 3-to-1 in support of the legislation.
“‘Liberty and justice for all’ is part of the bedrock of our country, but for LGBT citizens, there are currently no guarantees,” said Elias Rojas, board president of Alaskans Together for Equality (ATE). “Rather than going through this process time after time at the local level, HB 82 will ensure every person is protected against discrimination in Alaska, no matter the community, whether they live or visit here.”
Tuesday’s committee passage is the second time in two years that anti-discrimination legislation has passed the State Affairs Committee. Rep. Andy Josephson is the prime sponsor of HB 82, along with co-sponsors Reps. Matt Claman, Harriet Drummond, Zack Fields, Grier Hopkins, Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, and Geran Tarr said he hopes to see further progress for the anti-discrimination bill this session.
“This legislation speaks so fundamentally to our values as Alaskans,” Josephson said. “We believe people should be free to be who they are. We owe it to ourselves, our neighbors, and our visitors to ensure that Alaska is a safe and welcoming place for all.”
The bill will now be referred to the House Judiciary Committee.