Juneau Assembly Passes LGBTQ-Inclusive Non-Discrimination Ordinance

by Stephen Peters

JUNEAU, AK – Tonight, the Juneau Assembly voted 8 to 1 in favor of a city ordinance prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity, along with race, color, age, religion, sex, familial status, disability, or national origin. Juneau is the second major city in Alaska to pass a non-discrimination ordinance protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people, following the Anchorage Assembly’s passage of similar protections in September 2015. Juneau now joins more than 100 cities nationwide and 19 states with similar LGBTQ non-discrimination protections.

LGBTQ equality organizations involved in passing the measure released the following statements:

“This is truly a historic night for Juneau,” said Jenny Jahn, chair of the Southeast Alaska Gay and Lesbian Alliance (SEAGLA). “Our Assembly, lead by Deputy Mayor Jesse Kiehl, made a bold statement supporting equality and fairness in our community. This sends a clear message to Juneau residents, visitors, and those who are considering moving here: in Juneau, you will find a community that respects and values diversity, where you can attain whatever you dream, and where you will be judged based on your character, your behavior and work ethic, not on the color of your skin, your age, or who you love.”

“All Alaskans, including LGBTQ people, deserve to be able to live their lives and raise their families free from unjust and unfair discrimination,” said Marty Rouse, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) National Field Director. “We are incredibly proud to have worked side-by-side with local advocates in Juneau to pass these crucially important non-discrimination protections into law. The incredibly positive and robust discussion proves that Juneau is a welcoming and inclusive community. We are also very thankful for Deputy Mayor Kiehl’s thoughtful leadership in sponsoring this ordinance.”

“Tonight’s vote once again shows that fairness is a Juneau value,” said Joshua A. Decker, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska. “Treating others as we all want to be treated is what Alaska is about. With this strong and fair nondiscrimination ordinance, everyone in Juneau will be able to earn a living and support their families. We were proud to help make this ordinance a reality and were thrilled to be in the Assembly Chambers for tonight’s vote. We heartily congratulate the Assembly and everyone in Juneau.”

At the public hearing for the city ordinance last month, voters expressed nearly unanimous support for the measure. There are no explicit statewide sexual orientation or gender identity non-discrimination protections in Alaska.

Discrimination is a real and persistent problem for too many LGBTQ Americans. HRC polling has found that nearly two-thirds of self-identified LGBTQ Americans report experiencing discrimination. Currently, 50 percent of LGBTQ Americans live in states where they are at risk of being fired, denied housing, or refused service because of who they are. There is no federal law explicitly protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination, and 31 states still lack fully-inclusive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

The existing patchwork of legal protections for LGBTQ people in the United States as a whole leaves millions subject to uncertainty and at risk of discrimination. That’s why advocates are working with lawmakers to pass the Equality Act in Congress, as well as strong non-discrimination protections at the state and local levels. The Equality Act would finally guarantee explicit protections for LGBTQ people under our nation’s existing civil rights laws. It would provide clear, permanent, and equal protections under federal law for all Americans in vital areas of life, including employment, access to public spaces, housing, credit, education, jury service, and federally-funded programs.

The Southeast Alaska Gay and Lesbian Alliance (SEAGLA) works to provide a supporting social network for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer people in Southeast Alaska. SEAGLA fosters personal and public acceptance of these persons as members of society with full economic, social, legal and political rights.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work, and in every community.

The American Civil Liberties Union is our nation’s guardian of liberty. For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has been at the forefront of virtually every major battle for civil liberties and equal justice in this country. Principled and nonpartisan, the ACLU works in the courts, legislatures, and communities to preserve and expand the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States. The ACLU of Alaska, founded in 1971, is one of the 53 state ACLU affiliates that strive to make the Bill of Rights real for everyone and to uphold the promise of the Constitution—because freedom can’t protect itself.


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