Alaska says it’s okay to discriminate against LGBTQ people

LGBTQ+ people could face greater discrimination in Alaska after some equality policies were repealed.

The move means guidance on how to deal with non-employment LGBTQ+ discrimination cases will now be dropped.

Alaska’s original pro-LGBTQ+ human rights stance, published in a 2021 report, promised equal protections for LGBTQ+ people in housing, jobs, finance, and government practices.

Alaska released its own guidelines following a 2020 Supreme Court ruling that made discrimination against people based on their sexuality or gender identity in the workplace illegal.

In the original guide, the State Human Rights Commission explained LGBTQ+ discrimination policies in detail to help individuals learn more about their rights. These policies have now been removed.

Wording promising equal protections for LGBTQ+ people has been removed from the state’s website, and in a further blow all active non-employment LGBTQ+ civil rights cases will be decommissioned.

An investigation by news outlets found the change was requested by a Christian group and made after advice from Attorney General Treg Taylor.

The announcement was published on Twitter Account with only 41 followers.

It read: “Based on updated legal advice, ASCHR [the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights] will only be able to receive LGBTQ+ discrimination cases filed under AS 18.80.220…LGBTQ+ discrimination applied to public accommodation, housing, credit/financing and government practices is void.”

Identity Alaska, a nonprofit LGBTQ+ advocacy group, told ProPublica, “Regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, all Alaskans should be protected from discrimination with the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights.”

Treg Taylor was asked for an interview by local news outlets, but declined and instead issued a statement.

It read: “The role of the legal department is to provide legal advice to the state government on the basis of the law. The department doesn’t do politics. Policy decisions are left to the department’s clients, which include most executive branch departments, departments, agencies, panels and commissions, including ASCHR.

“When required by changes in the law or the need to correct previous advice, the department will update the advice it has previously provided to its clients.”

Governor Mike Dunleavy appointed Taylor as attorney general after his predecessors, Kevin Clarkson and Ed Sniffen, were controversial. Clarkson resigned after it was discovered he had sent hundreds of unsolicited messages to a much younger colleague, and Sniffen was charged with three counts of sexually abusing a minor. When he appeared in court in September, he denied all allegations.

Dunleavy also recently announced a bill mandating an increase in parental permission before teaching sex education classes.

If passed, the new law would require students to get their parents’ permission before changing their pronouns and joining a club related to gender and sexuality. The move would effectively force students to come out to their parents.

The bill also aims to force trans people to use locker rooms assigned to their sex at birth and describes the move as promoting the “physical safety and privacy” of students.

“It hurts people”

Brandon Nakasato, who served on the Alaska Human Rights Commission from 2016 to 2019, said the legislation hurts people in the state and more needs to be done to ensure LGBTQ+ people get equal protections against discrimination.

“I was one of those little gay kids [who] contemplating suicide living in a rural area who believe they were the strangest person on earth,” he said. “And there are teenagers like this one in the (Alaska) bush right now who need to know their leaders care about them too.

“Legislators need to hear how this lack of protection is hurting people.”

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Adam Bradshaw

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