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Anchorage, Ak., Gay Activists Have Opponents on the Run

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Thursday Mar 22, 2012
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Supporters of a gay rights initiative in Anchorage, Alaska, have raised more than $230,000 while those against it have collected less than $5,000, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The measure would help protect the city’s LGBT community by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to Anchorage’s anti-discrimination laws. The current laws protect individuals from discrimination based on color, race, marital status, religion and disabilities.

Backers of the initiative, which will be on the city ballot in April, received a $25,000 donation from Planned Parenthood of the Greater Northwest. The money will be used on advertising and other efforts to earn votes.

The spokesman for gay rights group One Anchorage Yes on Prop 5, Trevor Storrs, said that the organization has received donations from 1,100 Alaskans. Storrs also said the number of contributions shows Anchorage’s "overwhelming grassroots support." One Anchorage also received $10,000 each from the Pride Foundation and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Planned Parenthood CEO Clover Simon told the newspaper that the donation was made from the money the group raised and not from government grants or foundation support. She added that Planned Parenthood’s goal is to make sure people are not discriminated against and that the organization has been involved in similar campaigns in Idaho and Washington.

"All the funds raised will help provide information on the importance of a diverse community," Storrs said.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the city has attempted to pass similar anti-discrimination initiatives for the past 35 years but has failed due to repeals or the measure being vetoed at the last minute.

"We have been working towards the same legal protections for 35 years. We’ve had ups and we’ve had downs, and today, we feel we’re very much on the upswing," Storrs said in an interview. "We have crossed so many of those divides that once existed and really have shown that this is a grass-roots, 100%-supported change that Anchorage residents want."

Things have not been as successful for those against the initiative. Jim Minnery, chairman of the anti-initiative group Protect Your Rights -- Vote No on Prop 5, said that the organization is campaigning to churches and pastors, which is inexpensive.

"No. 1, we don’t believe that there is widespread discrimination that’s preventing gays and lesbians from having jobs and getting loans and housing. There’s ample evidence from those in the [gay and lesbian] community who say Anchorage is a very tolerant place," Minnery said.

"What we’re most concerned about is when this kind of provision has been added to municipal codes, there has been a serious infringement on the rights of businesses and individuals to act according to their deeply held convictions," he added. "It’s a religious liberty issue in our view. Folks are being asked to check their deeply held beliefs at the doors of their places of worship."

"We still have a few weeks left," he said. "Now we realize it might be nice to get some TV ads and radio."

Pastor Tim Davis of the nondenominational Bible church, Chapel by the Sea in South Anchorage, said the congregation has given Protect Your Rights $3,025, making the church the group’s biggest contributors.

"Our interest is simply to support that meeting so pastors can get educated," Davis said. "There’s a concern it has been one-sided presentation."

Currently, Alaska does not recognize marriage equality as the state prohibits same-sex couples from getting married or entering into any type of legal relationship, such as a civil union. In addition, the state’s hate crime laws do not protect individuals based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

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