Alaskans set to vote on bill that would ban transgender people from using the bathroom

It's North Carolina's HB2 all over again.

Women appear in an ad for Fair Anchorage, arguing against transgender discrimination. (CREDIT: Fair Anchorage/Screenshot)
Women appear in an ad for Fair Anchorage, arguing against transgender discrimination. (CREDIT: Fair Anchorage/Screenshot)

On Tuesday, voters in Anchorage, Alaska will weigh in on Proposition 1, a ballot initiative to ban transgender people from using bathrooms and other facilities. Given 40 percent of the state’s population lives in the city, the stakes are high for Alaska’s queer community.

Proposition 1 would write into law a narrow definition of sex as an “immutable biological condition of being male or female” as determined by “anatomy and genetics at the time of birth.” All municipal restrooms and changing facilities would be separated according to this definition of “sex,” thereby banning transgender people from using facilities that match their gender identities. Employers and businesses that serve the public would also be allowed to set such policies for using their bathrooms.

Advertisement

Most importantly, the measure literally deletes from city law the protections that allow transgender people to access facilities “consistent with their gender identity.” As a result of this rollback of nondiscrimination protections, transgender people would face discrimination in the workplace, in school, and in any public space they go. It’s almost identical to HB2, the anti-trans law that North Carolina passed in 2016.

The Alaska Family Council, the anti-LGBTQ group that spearheaded the initiative, has offered up a very familiar narrative for their discriminatory bill. The current protections, the “Yes on 1” site claims, are “intrusive and dangerous” and a “threat to privacy.” The site features a hodpodge of random stories that completely misrepresent how such protections have been enforced elsewhere. A story about a Seattle cisgender man who used the women’s locker room at a pool, for example, completely ignores the fact that the state human rights commission explicitly called his behavior “inexcusable and reprehensible” and clarified that “it is absolutely not protected under the law.”

Another story about a transgender woman using the locker room at Evergreen State College, where she was a student, completely misrepresents the facts of the case. While the story claims “a young girl saw the student naked,” the truth is that the woman and a friend were appropriately using the sauna, which is off limits to teenagers, and two 17-year-old students entered the space anyway. Nothing inappropriate happened, but the six year old story has been repeatedly distorted to demonize transgender people.

Yes on 1’s ads, which have been running for the past week, are no more legitimate.

One of the ads features a mom named “Kate” who claims she saw “a man [sic] watching the women shower” at a pool locker room. “Violating the privacy of women is discrimination,” she pleads. But Kate is actually Kate Ives, and she lives in St. Paul, Minnesota — not Alaska.

Ives testified in favor of a similar anti-trans bill in Minnesota, where she actually lives. She has also told her story in a video for the Family Policy Alliance, the political arm of the anti-LGBTQ Focus on the Family.  When asked why an outsider was featured in the ad, Alaska Family Council President Jim Minnery told INTO that local residents “are afraid to tell their stories.”

Advertisement

The group’s other ad relies on a story about a trans woman who attempted to access a women’s shelter. The ad itself shows a news story about the Yes on 1 campaign using the story to support their arguments. The shelter used in the ad, the Downtown Hope Center, told INTO that it has previously housed transgender women and that it was not asked before being included in the ad.

Meanwhile, Fair Anchorage, the coalition working to defeat Proposition 1, has been running ads to tackle bathroom “predator” myths head on. These are some of the most trans-inclusive ads that any political campaign has ever run.

The coalition’s latest ad directly challenges the claim that women are in danger  and features actual Anchorage women urging voters not to support discrimination in their name. “Do not harm transgender people in the name of women,” one woman says.

Turnout in this crucial showdown for transgender rights could be very high. That’s because Anchorage is attempting its first-ever mail-in ballot. By last Wednesday, 35,054 ballots had already been returned — or 17.7 percent of the city’s qualified voters. Voters have until Tuesday to return their ballot and decide whether to relegate their transgender neighbors to second-class status.