Home Social Justice Anchorage Municipal Attorney Recommends Denial of ‘Protect Our Privacy’ Ballot Initiative

Anchorage Municipal Attorney Recommends Denial of ‘Protect Our Privacy’ Ballot Initiative

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Photo by amboo who?, Creative Commons Licensing.

The latest attempt to dismantle Anchorage’s law protecting the LGBT community from discrimination does not appear likely to make it to April’s ballot. Municipal Attorney William Falsey wrote that the petition application for an initiative, entitled the “Protect Our Privacy” initiative, did not meet the legal requirements to be allowed to move forward. He recommended that the municipal clerk deny the application.

The application was filed by Kim Minnery, wife of Alaska Family Council President Jim Minnery, and asked,

Shall the Anchorage Municipal Code be amended to: protect the privacy of citizens by requiring that certain restrooms and changing facilities in municipal buildings be designated for and used only by persons of the same sex; provide that private employers, public accommodations and other persons may lawfully choose to adopt sex-specific standards for restroom access, and dress and grooming policies; provide that no public accommodation may be forced to promote a message or expressive event with which the owner or operator disagrees; provide that employers, public accommodations and other persons may not be compelled to participate in certain activities that violate a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction; and provide exemptions for religious organizations with respect to employment decisions and the provision of adoption services?

“Subject to the following discussion, our brief answer is no,” Falsey wrote. “The Anchorage Municipal Code mandates that initiative petitions may address only ‘a single subject.’ … No single subject unifies the various, disparate components of the law sought to be initiated by petition 2017-1.”

In an 11-page legal opinion transmitted to the Municipal Clerk, Falsey wrote that the petition proposed three different categories of changes to the law: a requirement of “‘sex’-based practices;” the authorization of certain entities to “act, or refrain from acting, in accordance with their views of marriage and pre-marital sex;” and the allowance of “public accommodations to refrain from assisting in conduct supporting any message to which the owner or operator of the public accommodation, ‘as a matter of… conviction,’ objects.” [emphasis in original]

Falsey said that the application could be revised, and multiple applications could be submitted covering each facet. A recommendation was also made to change the name of the initiative.

[T]he ‘Protect our Privacy Initiative’ … is neither neutral (because many, particularly in the transgender community, would see the measure as undermining their privacy interests), nor a fair shorthand for the measure (given that few, if any of the “lawful practices” and “religious freedom exemptions” that would be enacted by sections 3 and 4 of the measure, could be fairly construed as serving a privacy interest). Yet, in its absence, no reasonable shorthand for the measure, reflective of a single “general idea” animating and unifying the petition, suggests itself. [emphasis in original]

Because the denial was based solely on the violation of the single-subject rule, Falsey added a note of caution to future efforts, should Minnery or anyone seek to refile.

“We do not reach the question of whether the proposed code amendments would be enforceable as matter of law or clearly unconstitutional, and advise the sponsors a resubmitted application is subject to further legal review.”

Minnery now has 30 days to file suit and hope for an expedited hearing and favorable opinion, as initiatives are required to be approved at least 90 days before the next municipal election in April.