Call to Action: Alaska HB 99 to extend Alaska's anti-discrimination statutes to the LGBTQ+ community
On February 16, 2022, the Alaska State Commission on Human Rights, a government agency responsible for investigating and resolving complaints of discrimination, voted to remove protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity from its mission statement and official documents. This decision was met with swift and widespread criticism from advocates for LGBTQ+ rights, who argued that it represented a significant setback for equality and human rights in the state of Alaska. See the ADN article for more detail.
The Alaska State Commission on Human Rights was established in 1985 with the goal of ensuring that all people in Alaska are treated fairly and equally under the law, regardless of their race, sex, religion, or other protected characteristics. Its mission statement, as originally written, included explicit protections for LGBTQ+ individuals: "The Alaska State Commission on Human Rights is dedicated to promoting and protecting the human rights of all people in Alaska, including those who are members of traditionally underrepresented groups such as women, racial and ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals."
However, in a controversial move, the Commission voted to remove the words "lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals" from its mission statement and official documents, citing concerns that these protections were too controversial and divisive. The decision was made by a narrow margin, with four members of the Commission voting in favor of the change and three members voting against it.
The decision sparked immediate outrage from LGBTQ+ advocates and civil rights groups, who argued that it represented a significant step backwards for human rights in Alaska. Many argued that the move was politically motivated, reflecting a broader trend of attacks on LGBTQ+ rights across the country. Some also raised concerns about the practical implications of the decision, pointing out that it could make it more difficult for LGBTQ+ individuals to seek legal recourse if they experience discrimination in employment, housing, or other areas.
In response to the outcry, several elected officials in Alaska spoke out against the Commission's decision and called for it to be reversed. The Anchorage Assembly passed a resolution condemning the decision and reaffirming the city's commitment to protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals.
Despite the backlash, the Commission has not yet reversed its decision, and it remains to be seen what the long-term consequences of this move will be for LGBTQ+ rights in Alaska. However, the controversy has highlighted the ongoing challenges facing LGBTQ+ individuals in the United States and the importance of continued advocacy and activism in the fight for equality and human rights.
For more background on this bill see the ADN article.
HB 99 would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Email your support of HB 99 at HCRA@akleg.gov.