Metro Weekly

Anchorage voters officially reject anti-trans ballot initiative

Historic victory marks the first time that a standalone measure on transgender protections has been upheld by voters

Campaigners from the coalition behind the Fair Anchorage campaign – Photo: Human Rights Campaign.

A coalition of LGBTQ groups has declared victory in Anchorage, Alaska, after voters defeated a ballot measure that sought to remove nondiscrimination protections for transgender people.

While the results have yet to be certified, it is all but mathematically impossible for the measure to succeed, as supporters trail opponents 52.7% to 47.3%, or approximately 4,000 votes, with 100% of precincts reporting. As such, the Fair Anchorage campaign felt comfortable in calling the final result this past weekend.

The win for opponents of the measure, which included a number of local and national LGBTQ organizations, is historic, as it marks the first time that an American jurisdiction has upheld transgender protections as part of a standalone ballot measure.

With the Anchorage municipality home to just under 300,000 residents, it also becomes one of the largest jurisdictions in the country to approve such measures.

Since the ballot measure was approved last year, Fair Anchorage has run a campaign focusing heavily on local Anchorage residents who would be negatively affected by the rescission of the protections for transgender people.

They particularly stressed the local angle after it was revealed that one of the women in the “Yes on 1” campaign’s advertisements was an anti-transgender activist from Minnesota, as reported by the Anchorage Daily News.

The campaign also ran commercials and sent out mailers featuring local public safety experts and women’s advocates to stress that the ballot initiative was not about compromising women’s safety in public restrooms, as opponents claimed, but rather about protecting transgender people from discrimination.

“This groundbreaking, first-of-its kind victory could never have happened without the hard work and courage of transgender people and their families in Anchorage who shared their experiences and stories of how Prop 1 would impact them,” Kati Ward, the campaign manager for Fair Anchorage, said in a statement. “When we learned last year that Proposition 1 might be on the ballot, we began to create a coalition like our city has never seen before.

“We brought together a powerful alliance of bipartisan elected officials, businesses, faith leaders, safety advocates, women, educators, and families to send the message that Anchorage values freedom for all,” Ward continued. “This is a victory not only for transgender people, but for their allies and everyone who is proud to call Anchorage a welcoming place.”

The victory is particularly significant when placed into context, as Anchorage voters rejected a ballot measure to extend protections for LGBTQ people as recently as 2012. Additionally, in light of the Trump administration’s efforts to target the transgender community by revoking rights and protections enjoyed under the Obama administration, the victory of the “no” campaign in Anchorage appears to signify a trend among voters, who are increasingly rejecting efforts to allow discrimination against the transgender community.

LGBTQ advocates point to the backlash against North Carolina’s HB 2 law, the defeat of a similar “bathroom bill” in Texas, two consecutive failures by anti-LGBTQ forces to repeal Washington State’s transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination law via ballot initiative, and the passage of protections for gender identity in other jurisdictions as further evidence that attacking transgender people does not necessarily reap rewards electorally.

Several national groups provided financial support, campaign staffers, and volunteers to assist the Fair Anchorage campaign, including Freedom for All Americans and the Human Rights Campaign.

In a truly historic election, Anchorage voters refused to succumb to hate and bigotry by rejecting this discriminatory, anti-transgender ballot measure,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “Together, we sent a powerful message that Anchorage is a welcoming and inclusive city for all — including transgender people.”

“Today’s victory indicates that the tide is turning in our movement for LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections,” Masen Davis, the CEO of Freedom for All Americans, said in a statement. “In one of the first-ever municipal ballot fights specifically centered on transgender people, the win in Anchorage is a game-changing victory. Just six years ago, Anchorage voted against protections for LGBTQ people; and this time, voters turned out to the polls in record numbers and affirmed their core values of treating all people fairly, even in the face of desperate and misleading tactics pushed forward by our opponents.”

Davis also pointed out that the lessons learned from Anchorage will be applicable to other states with ballot initiatives targeting transgender protections, such as Massachusetts, where a statewide ballot measure seeks to repeal the state’s 2016 law allowing for protections for transgender people in public accommodations. Another state to watch will be Montana, where anti-LGBTQ forces are determined to place a measure barring transgender voters from facilities that match their gender identity on the November ballot.

“Our triumph in Anchorage shows that advocates for nondiscrimination protections know what it takes to win voters and change hearts and minds. The local campaign mobilized early, recruited a strong and diverse coalition, spearheaded a citywide conversation, and fired on all cylinders to run a successful campaign that put the faces, voices, and families of transgender people first,” Davis said. “The campaigns ahead won’t be easy, but Anchorage will serve as a shining example of what we can achieve when we have honest, one-on-one conversations about who transgender people are.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com