Sadly, this is the transphobic angle that LGBT rights foes in Anchorage have taken to fight against Proposition 5, an ordinance to extend anti-discrimination protections to gay and transgender citizens.
Watch the appalling “Protect Your Rights — Vote No On Prop. 5″ campaign ad below:
Right now in Anchorage there is no local, state or federal rule preventing someone being fired or discriminated against in the housing, education or credit sectors, solely on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. For obvious reasons LGBT rights groups want to remedy that and have sponsored the Proposition 5 ballot initiative.
“Shall the current Municipal Code sections providing legal protections against discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, age, physical disability, and mental disability be amended to include protections on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender identity?”
Proposition 5 also contains explicit language affirming all individuals’ religious beliefs, saying:
“It is the express intent of this chapter to guarantee legal protections consistent with federal and state constitutional freedoms and laws, including freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the free exercise of religion.”
To emphasize, this isn’t actually necessary as religious freedom is already a federal and state guarantee. This language was most likely put there to avoid misrepresentation by opposition groups that the proposition could impact religious rights.
Instead the “Protect Your Rights” campaign has turned to “men in dresses” scare-mongering, but they’ve done so using some untruths.
For instance, the One Anchorage proposition that will go to the ballot contains explicit provisions to allow employers to maintain a reasonable dress code:
“Notwithstanding any provision of this chapter, employers and operators of public accommodations may impose reasonable dress codes, work rules, codes of conduct, and other rules of general application.”
That’s fairly clear. Only medically recognized gender transition would be given protection and trans employees would have to follow the same dress code as all other employees of that gender. The proposition also allows for building owners to maintain separate gender bathrooms.
However, the one perceived weakness in the proposal is that the proposition does not explicitly define what it means to be transgender. This is what opponents of Proposition 5 have attempted to capitalize on.
Jim Minnery, a leader of the Protect Your Rights — Vote No On Prop. 5 campaign, which produced the commercial, said the ad points out that because “transgender” isn’t defined in the ordinance, a scenario like the one portrayed in the commercial could play out under the law.
“I think it’s a shocking flaw in Prop. 5 and shows profound disrespect to voters that the authors didn’t feel it was important to provide a definition of transgender identity,” Minnery said.
He defended his group’s free speech rights and said the cartoon caricature was meant to grab attention. “You kind of have to cut to the chase; you have 30 seconds,” he said.
Since the law doesn’t define transgender, why couldn’t it include a cross-dressing man, Minnery asked.
His group’s concern, he said, is that without a clear definition of transgender, someone who considers himself to be a different gender could require a business to accommodate him.
In addition to the threat to religious freedom he says is posed by the proposed ordinance, it “creates a whole set of legal issues for the municipality.”
We dealt with Minnery’s main complaints above — like what would and would not appear to be covered under the ordinance — and he doesn’t expand upon what “legal issues” protecting LGBT rights would create for the municipality, probably because there aren’t any.
An independent lawyer — that is to say not affiliated with either side of the debate — is quoted by the Tribune as confirming that a lack of a definition for “transgender” is a minor issue given that municipal authorities and the courts would simply seek to find an agreed on definition, and the standard definition is one of a medically supported gender transition.
Proposition 5 supporters have said the ad dehumanizes trans people in order to capitalize on transphobia. They have called on Minnery to take down the ad, saying in a statement:
In the last two weeks, ads paid for and produced by Jim Minnery, Protect Your Rights, and Glenn Clary and Jerry Prevo’s Anchorage Baptist Temple’s Protect your Freedoms have made false claims about the legal effects of Proposition 5. Moreover, the TV versions of these ads contain highly offensive cartoon imagery which seeks to dehumanize and demean our transgender friends, family and neighbors.
We can disagree and debate issues. But, creating and broadcasting unacceptably offensive and intentionally stigmatizing and distorted cartoons of gay and transgender individuals is shameful and wrong. Such dehumanizing stereotypes do not represent the values we share as a community.
As leaders of the Yes on Prop 5, One Anchorage campaign, and as people who truly care about all residents in Anchorage, we call on the creators of these images to stop producing hateful stereotypes which contribute to the stigmatization of and violence against a minority community.
These ads must be removed from all broadcast and internet media immediately.
One last point on the ad: it apes that Anchorage is already a tolerant region and therefore there’s no need to amend current law.
A recent survey showed a significant need for explicit LGBT protections.
It found that of those surveyed more than 70 percent said they felt forced to hide their sexual orientation to avoid job discrimination. The report, while not statistically representative of the gay population as a whole due to its methodology, was consistent with national surveys in finding that 41 percent of respondents said they’ve been bullied or harassed in Anchorage schools and educational institutions, while 18.7 percent reported harassment by landlords or other tenants in Anchorage. That figure would probably double, if not triple, if the survey focused on trans people alone.
Meanwhile, a poll conducted by Dittman Research and Communications Corp. found 50 percent of 500 Anchorage voters surveyed support Prop. 5, while 41 percent are opposed. Nine percent said they were undecided. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points.
Put simply, the anti-Prop. 5 campaign has resorted to transphobia because it has absolutely nothing else to use against Proposition 5 and time is running out: voters will go to the polls on April 3 and if they vote in favor will override Mayor Dan Sullivan’s 2009 veto of a similar ordinance that was approved by the Anchorage Assembly.
Image taken from video under fair use terms.