ANCHORAGE, AK – Voters in the Alaska capital rejected efforts to add protections for people regardless of “sexual orientation or transgender identity” to the city’s civil rights ordinances. Strong voter turnout resulted in many polling sites running out of ballots during the plebiscite, which was held on Tuesday, April 3.
Although several thousand votes had yet to be counted according to the clerk for the Municipality of Anchorage, Proposition 5 trailed by almost 9,000 votes, despite earlier poll numbers that indicated the measure would pass. A similar ordinance that had been passed by the 11-member Anchorage Assembly was vetoed in 2009 by Mayor Dan Sullivan.
One Anchorage, the group that organized the Proposition 5 ballot initiative, included both prominent Democrats and Republicans, including the state’s U.S. Senators, Lisa Murkowski (R- Alaska) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska). The coalition— which received out-of-state support, including a $25,000 donation from Colorado billionaire Tim Gill, a regular benefactor of LGBT causes—outspent opponents more than 4 to 1, raising nearly $350,000.
These opponents included conservative Alaskan religious groups, among them the Roman Catholic Church. Most of the opposition was financed by the 2,500-member Anchorage Baptist Temple (ABT) and its pastor, Rev. Jerry Prevo. Prevo had argued against both previous efforts to enact an LGBT right ordinance: first in the late 1970s under Mayor George Sullivan, and later in 2009 under Sullivan’s son, Dan, who was elected to a second term by a wide margin during last week’s vote.
Prevo and ABT ran ads that evoked— inaccurately—several scenarios which would be permissible under the new ordinance, including one in which a church would not be able to fire a hypothetical cross-dresser who was employed in its day-care center.