Politics & Government

Gay rights ordinance up for discussion in Anchorage

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation is again on the Anchorage Assembly agenda Tuesday with some last minute changes by the chairwoman, who is tweaking the controversial proposal to make it more palatable to both sides.

Assembly chairwoman Debbie Ossiander would not say Monday night what changes she plans in the newest version of the ordinance because she was still writing it. It will be the second rewrite of the proposed law, first introduced to the Assembly a month ago.

Assembly members are also expecting more impassioned testimony like the outpouring they heard last week at the first public hearing when hundreds showed up, packing the Assembly chambers and standing their ground outside, waving signs against or in support of the ordinance.

The ordinance bans discrimination against gays, lesbians and bisexuals by adding "sexual orientation" to an anti-discrimination list that already includes race, color, religion, age and marital status. It specifies it is illegal to discriminate in employment, education, financing and housing.

Jackie Buckley, spokeswoman for Equality Works, one of the groups behind the ordinance, will have escorts for those who want to testify, she said. Last week, people turned away because they were intimidated by opponents, she said. "Taunting people coming and going from a hearing, that's inexcusable."

So many people signed up to speak that time ran out before all could be heard. The Assembly got through 88 of the 342 on the list.

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