ACLU of Alaska's February 25, 2019 testimony to the Fairbanks City Council Ordinance 6093—adding LGBTQ protections to the city's non-discrimination code:
Dear Mayor Matherly and Council Members Kun, Rogers, Therrien, Ottersten, Cleworth, and Pruhs:
The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska supports the passage of a strong nondiscrimination ordinance for Fairbanks. If passed without amendments that undermine its purpose, Ordinance No. 6093 would be critical legislation to ensure all Fairbanks residents, including those who are gay or transgender, are treated fairly and equally, free from discrimination based on who they are or whom they love.
We have seen you take seriously your obligation to hear from Fairbanksans and consider the manifold implications the ordinance could have on peoples’ lives. We have heard from residents who have endured discrimination in our state’s Golden Heart city, including from some who came forward knowing they could be risking their jobs or homes.
We have also heard Fairbanksans express concern that their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion would be curtailed. We have been happy to support the City Council in identifying legislative language for this ordinance that acknowledges and affirms constitutional protections for the Constitution’s first freedom. For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has vigorously defended the rights of all Americans, from Christians to members of minority faiths, to practice their religion —and we will continue to do so. This is why we at the ACLU go to court every single month to defend Americans’ right to pray and practice their religion free from government censorship or restraint.
Ordinance No. 6093 does not curtail the practice of religion—it would be unconstitutional if it did and the ACLU would be the first to oppose it. Instead, Ordinance No. 6093 continues the balance our country has had for 55 years, since the 1964 Civil Rights Act, that no form of discrimination is acceptable from anyone on any basis when acting in the public sphere for private profit—as an employer, a landlord, or a provider of goods and services. In the United States, we’ve balanced the freedom of religion with freedom from discrimination for 55 years, and Ordinance No. 6093 continues this harmony by bringing these needed nondiscrimination protections to Fairbanks.
Fairness and freedom from discrimination are fundamental American values and Alaskan values. No one should be fired from their job, evicted from their home, or turned away from a business just because of who they are. By passing a comprehensive, fully inclusive Ordinance No. 6093, Fairbanks will take a significant step closer to realizing these fundamental values for everyone who lives, works, or does business in this city.
We laud the Fairbanks City Council for its leadership in introducing Ordinance No. 6093 and recognizing the rights of all Fairbanks residents to be free from discrimination.
We urge each of you to reject amendments that undermine this purpose, and pass a strong nondiscrimination ordinance that allows everyone to live and work free from discrimination in Alaska’s Golden Heart.
Joshua A. Decker
ACLU of Alaska