Anchorage voters on Tuesday rejected a measure that would have extended existing nondiscrimination provisions to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Anchorage voters rejected a proposed ordinance to add legal protections for gay, lesbian and transgender people in a chaotic municipal election fraught with ballot shortages and high voter turnout in many precincts.
With more than 90 percent of the precincts reporting late Tuesday, 58 percent of voters had voted against Proposition 5, the equal rights ordinance that was far and away the most controversial and emotional component of this spring’s election.
The vote was expected to be close with Prop 5 originally polling ahead at 50 percent, so this substantial margin of defeat comes as quite a shock for advocates. A combination of reasons for the defeat have been floated.
A transphobic ad campaign run by opponents of the measure may have contributed, and misinformation that voters could register on the day they cast their ballot may not have helped, but some commentators are placing most of the blame on how the measure may have got caught in the cross-fire between mayoral candidates.
[Matt Larkin, owner of Dittman Research, an Anchorage-based polling and political consulting company,] said he believed there was a major get-out-the-vote campaign conducted by initiative opponents and possibly backlash to a campaign tactic used by Sullivan challenger Paul Honeman, who tied himself to the initiative and implicitly criticized pro-Sullivan voters.
“He started running some ads that said, essentially, `Don’t be a dummy and vote for my opponent,’” Larkin said. Instead of diminishing support for Sullivan, an incumbent with high approval ratings, Honeman wound up diminishing support for the initiative, Larkin said.
Proactively taking a nondiscrimination ordinance to the ballot was a first-of-its-kind tactic that seemed set to pay off for LGBT equality advocates. This defeat will no doubt be closely analyzed for what went wrong so as to try and prevent future disappointments.
One Anchorage, the main group behind the nondiscrimination ordinance, released a statement on their website saying :
“When we look at our journey over the past year, we have built a stronger and more tolerant Anchorage, and know we have farther to go. Several hundred volunteers came forward to share their stories and reach out to voters regarding the need for the same legal protections for gay and transgender Alaskans. Nearly 1500 individuals provided resources, large and small. A diverse spectrum of Alaskans from business, religious communities, elected officials, and thousands of individuals from every walk of life, came together to support us and equality.
While we are disappointed at the interim election results, we could not be prouder of the honest campaign we ran.”