Anti-transgender discrimination loses in Alaska vote

It's a significant reversal from Anchorage's last LGBTQ vote in 2012.

Fair Anchorage Field Organizer Lillian Lennon hugs Col, a transgender teen who starred in one of the ads opposing Prop 1, as the results came in Tuesday night. (CREDIT: Twitter/Fair Anchorage)
Fair Anchorage Field Organizer Lillian Lennon hugs Col, a transgender teen who starred in one of the ads opposing Prop 1, as the results came in Tuesday night. (CREDIT: Twitter/Fair Anchorage)

According to preliminary tallies from the city’s first mail-in election, voters in Anchorage, Alaska appear to have defeated Proposition 1, a controversial measure which would have licensed and mandated discrimination against transgender people.

Tuesday was the last day for voters to postmark their ballots, but according to the significant number of votes already cast (23 percent of all registered voters), the measure is losing by a 54-46 margin. Outlets in the area are unofficially calling Prop 1 defeated.

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Anchorage’s Prop 1 initiative was designed to dismantle a set of LGBTQ protections passed by the Anchorage Assembly in 2015, carving out an exception that would ban transgender people from using bathrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity.

In response to Prop 1, LGBTQ advocates tackled the bathroom myths head-on, running ads that specifically countered their opponents’ fear-mongering. This was a significant change in strategy from the last such fight, the referendum on Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). In that 2015 fight, those defending the city’s LGBTQ protections only ran one ad that included a transgender person, and none of the ads directly responded to conservatives’ bathroom narratives.

Fair Anchorage, the coalition that worked to defeat Prop 1, said in a statement Tuesday night that they were “hopeful” about the results but that they were not celebrating until “every vote is counted… because the stakes are too high for anything less.”

Proponents of the discriminatory measure were also hopeful that the margin would narrow as the day went on. It’s unclear when the final call will be made.

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Tuesday’s outcome is a significant reversal from six years ago, the last time the city voted on an LGBTQ question. In 2012, voters considered whether to add LGBTQ protections to the city’s nondiscrimination code. That measure, known as Prop 5, was roundly defeated by about a 58-42 margin. The campaign also was one of the first times opponents of equality deployed scare tactics about transgender people using bathrooms, including a series of ads that were recycled by LGBTQ opponents in Houston’s anti-discrimination fight a few years later.