SITKA, Alaska -- Another Alaska city has declared that hatred has no home here.
In a historic 7-0 vote, the Sitka Assembly on Dec. 12 passed Ordinance 42, joining Anchorage and Juneau in approving inclusive legal protections against discrimination.
Under a new code created by the ordinance, the City and Borough of Sitka will ban discrimination based on race, age, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and disability.
“This ordinance is at the heart of our values as Sitkans, as Alaskans, and as Americans,” said Assembly member Kevin Knox, who co-sponsored the ordinance with Vice Deputy Mayor Bob Potrzuski. The law was first proposed last year by then-Assembly member Tristan Guevin.
“This is what we as a community believe: that all people, no matter what they look like or who they love, are entitled to be treated fairly under the law,” Knox said.
While residents of Anchorage, Juneau and now Sitka are protected by local non-discrimination laws, state and federal laws have yet to catch up with these communities in ensuring protection of LGBTQ citizens.
“The City and Borough of Sitka has extended to its residents protections that should be guaranteed to every Alaskan,” said Elias Rojas, board president of Alaskans Together for Equality (ATE). “This is both a proud moment for Sitka and a reminder of the lack of legal protections for LGBTQ people across the state and country. As a state, we still have more work to do to ensure that those that need protection from discrimination are covered.”
Alaska is one of 31 states with no statewide anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ citizens, but two bills under consideration in the Legislature could change that. House Bill 184/Senate Bill 72 would add LGBTQ citizens as a protected class under Alaska’s existing civil rights law, which prohibits discrimination in housing, employment, credit, financing, and public accommodations.
In a recent poll, Alaskan 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 Sitka and looking forward to the day when all Alaskans, and all Americans, are legally guaranteed the right to be treated fairly,” Rojas said.