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Hundreds Protest Anchorage Mayor’s Gay Rights Veto

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Aug 19, 2009
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Protesters gathered by the hundreds before Anchorage’s city hall following Mayor Dan Sullivan’s veto of an Assembly-approved measure designed to counteract anti-gay discrimination in the Alaskan city.

The city’s Assembly had passed the measure, but would need one more vote to override the mayor’s veto.

An Aug. 17 article at the Web site for CBS affiliate KTVA Channel 11 said that only a few counter-protesters were in evidence.

However, they were unambiguous about their message to GLBT Anchorage residents.

"Get back in the closet," shouted one man at the protesters, the article reported.

Despite two vetoes of similar legislation in the mid-1970s by Sullivan’s father, George Sullivan, who also served as Mayor of Anchorage, and a protracted public debate that led to a delay in the Assembly’s vote--and that some see as a maneuver to ensure a vote after Sullivan took office, and thus ensure a veto--some said that the veto took them by surprise, the article said.

Protester Taylor Huston reckoned that the veto had "completely blind-sided" him.

Another protester, Susan Case, recalled the animosity shown to gays by opponents of the anti-discrimination measure.

"I sat through several other testimonies session[s], and I listened and I sat with my brother through one, and he had to leave because he was physically ill from the things people were calling him," Case was quoted as saying.

Indeed, as reported in an earlier EDGE article, opponents of the measure, including local Baptist leader Rev. Jerry Prevo, were vocal in their resistance.

A Web site operated by anti-gay activists even applied now-standard anti-equality arguments to the matter of the proposed ordinance, including claims that religious freedoms would be lost and children endangered by a "gay agenda" if a guarantee of equal treatment were made into law.

But others saw the veto as necessary. Assembly Chair Debbie Ossiander voted against the proposed ordinance, reportedly fearing its impact on small businesses.

Said Ossiander, "I didn’t vote lightly, it was a difficult vote but I think it was correct," the article reported.

Added Ossiander, "I would have been supportive of creating a task force, I’d be supportive of doing some different things, but I did not support the ordinance that the mayor vetoed."

Proponents of GLBT equality indicated that the struggle is not yet over. Tiffany McClain, also at the protest, cited the protracted public debate surrounding the measure, saying, "One thing that has been demonstrated over the last two months or so is a huge need for education about what is means to be a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender person living in Anchorage and why protections from discrimination is important."

Proponents of the measure may bring the measure up again at the Aug. 25 Assembly meeting, though it not expected that any votes will have changed by then.

Failing a surprise later this month, the measure may be back in some form as early as next April, the article noted.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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