Alaska votes on their first ever bill protecting LGBTI peple

Alaska Pride Fest. | Photo: Flickr/Mel Green

For the first time ever in Alaska’s state legislature, a committee voted on and approved a bill protecting LGBTI people from discrimination.

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Several more steps preclude the bill from becoming law. Legislators could also vote it down. However, this is still a significant step.

The bill is HB 184 and it provides equal protection for people based on ‘sexual orientation, gender identity and expression’. Prior to this bill, the state only protected classes like religion, race, age, sex, and more. Democratic Representative Andy Josephson sponsors the bill.

As he explains in his statement, the Alaska State Commission on Human Rights urged such an addition in 2016. Without the bill, the commission has no authority to address LGBTI discrimination.

Five years ago, in 2013, legislators proposed a similar bill. However, it never even advanced to a vote.

‘In the history of the Alaska Legislature, there’s never been any LGBT-friendly legislation that’s moved,’ Josephson said.

He further said that for him, civil rights are personal, and LGBTI rights is the ‘last frontier of the civil rights movement’.

Only one Republican on the committee voted in favor of the bill. One Republican who opposed it, DeLena Johnson, called the bill ‘unnecessary’. She said it’s because ‘immutable characteristics’ define anti-discrimination laws. To her, gender and sexual orientation are changeable.

The bill now must pass in the House and Senate, before Governor Bill Walker can choose to sign it into law.

Legislation battleground

State, and occasionally federal, legislation is where most battles are taking place for LGBTI rights currently.

Unfortunately, while HB 184 is a progressive step forward for Alaska, the state also introduced its own bathroom proposition. It’s similar to North Carolina and Texas’ bathroom bills in that it limits access based on sex at birth, rather than gender identity.

Alaskans will vote on this proposition in early April.

Around the country, lawmakers are taking to bills to both support and harm LGBTI people.

Iowa recently introduced its own bathroom bill. Another piece of legislation in South Dakota says teachers can’t discuss gender identity.

Religion presents itself in many of these bills, which call for religiouse exemptions.

That’s what Georgia’s adoption bill is all about. On a federal level, Republicans introduced a bill legalizing anti-LGBTI discrimination in favor of ‘sincerely held religious beliefs’.

It’s not all bad, though.

In January, Virginia passed two bills protecting LBTI people from discrimination. New Hampshire also made progress on a bill prohibiting trans discrimination. Finally, Washington became the 10th state to ban gay conversion therapy on minors.

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