August 12, 2009

Discrimination based on sexual orientation banned by Anchorage Assembly

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After two months of heated debate, the Anchorage Assembly voted to approve an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, reports Don Hunter in the Anchorage Daily News. The law is designed to protect rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in employment, credit, housing and public accommodation situations. As an interesting compromise, religious organizations are exempt from the ordinance, allowing them to hire people consistent with their beliefs. The ordinance passed with a 7-4 vote on Tuesday, one vote short of the supermajority necessary to override a mayoral veto. Mayor Dan Sullivan has one week to decide whether to support the law.

This vote follows the introduction of legislation in the Senate one week ago to ban discrimination by gender identity or sexual orientation in the workplace on a national scale. It’s known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and is supported by Democratic senators from Oregon and Massachusetts as well as Republican senators from Maine, reports Charles Pope in The Oregonian. The bill would protect people who identify or are perceived as gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual. Thirty-eight senators total support the bill so far, but its future is uncertain. Senators who favor the bill hope a Senate vote last month that defined attacks based on sexual orientation as hate crimes will spur more support.

This goes beyond politics and spats over gay marriage. There are already laws in place prohibiting discrimination based on race, gender, age, religion, disability and national origin. Why would sexual orientation or gender identity be any different?

– Emily Linroth

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