House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, introduced a bill Friday to add “sexual orientation, gender identity or expression” to the list of traits upon which businesses, unions and landlords cannot discriminate against people under Alaska state law.
The added language is needed to cover people who currently are not protected by anti-discrimination ordinances, Kerttula indicated Friday, shortly after her House Bill 139 was introduced on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives.
“I don’t think you should discriminate against anybody for your viewpoints, or your biology, or your sexual orientation or your gender,” said Kerttula.
Kerttula also said that questioning Tuesday at a House minority caucus press conference about the caucus’ position on same-sex unions reminded her of the issue.
“I said, ‘Yeah, we need to put that bill back in and keep on top of it,’” said Kerttula of the discrimination legislation.
Kerttula introduced similar legislation in 2011, a year before a high-profile ballot initiative in Anchorage to add legal protections for residents on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Voters rejected the proposition in Anchorage last April, and Kerttula’s bill never advanced to a committee hearing.
Asked about Proposition 5’s failure at the ballot box in the state’s largest city, Kerttula said it was “still the right thing to do.”
Kerttula's previous bill, House Bill 165, did not include the language in H.B. 139 extending legal protections on the basis of gender identity and expression.
H.B. 139 has been referred to the House State Affairs Committee and the House Judiciary Committee.
Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, chairman of the State Affairs Committee, said Friday that he had not yet read the bill and could not comment on it in detail.
“I’m going to examine that,” Lynn said. “If she requests a hearing, we will undoubtedly hear the bill and take it up then.”
Lynn added, “We have to protect people’s rights. … I’m interested to hear what testimony’s heard on that, what other members of the committee have to say. And like every other bill, we’re going to consider it carefully and see what happens.”
Kerttula said she has not spoken to Lynn or the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Wasilla Republican Rep. Wes Keller, about the bill, but she said she plans to take it up with them and push for hearings.
“Maybe they won’t agree on the broader issue, which I would hope someday they would, but on this, it’s hard to understand how anybody would want discrimination, out-and-out discrimination, based on these things,” Kerttula said. “On an individual basis, I don’t think anyone’s … for discrimination.”
Keller was not available for comment Friday, according to his staff.
• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 586-1821 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.