Fairbanks, Alaska, Mar 5, 2019 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- Jim Matherly, the mayor of Fairbanks, Alaska, vetoed an equal rights ordinance on Friday, March 1, after having previously supported the measure.
City Ordinance 6093 would have provided protections against discrimination for those who identify as LGBTQ in employment, housing, and in public accomodations. It would also create a mechanism for people to challenge discrimination in court.
“After much soul-searching, research, and examination of all facets of the issues surrounding Ordinance 6093, I am exercising my veto powers,” said Matherly in a letter addressed to the residents of the City of Fairbanks.
Matherly explained that he did not make the decision to veto the ordinance, which had been passed by a 4-2 vote by the City Council, lightly, and that he still thinks that the idea behind the equal rights ordinance is “sound.”
Initially, Matherly had co-sponsored the ordinance, but later became concerned that it was far more complicated than he had originally thought.
The two members of the City Council who voted against the ordinance expressed concerns that the ordinance applied to too many small businesses, and that it was too quick to encourage people to bring their claims to a court, rather than attempting to settle the matter outside of a courtroom.
In the letter, Matherly voiced concerns that much of the testimony regarding the equal rights ordinance had come from outside of both Fairbanks as well as from outside Alaska.
“While I value the opinion of our neighbors in the surrounding communities and visitors from farther out, I want the citizens of Fairbanks to chart their own course and decide how we move forward as a city,” said Matherly.
Last month, in the city of Anchorage became the center of a court battle when the Alliance Defending Freedom sued the city to prevent the application of a gender identity law to a faith-based women’s shelter.
The lawsuit concerned an investigation by the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission into Hope Center, which provides shelter to women who have suffered domestic violence. The Hope Center was referred to the commission for refusing overnight accomodation to a man who identifies himself as a “transgender woman.”
Lawyers for the ADF told the U.S. District Court that the women in the shelter were deeply traumatized by domestic abuse and would “rather sleep in the woods” than with men present in the shelter overnight.
In Fairbanks, Matherly now wants local residents to vote on the equal rights plans as a ballot measure during elections this coming October.
“I believe this question should be given to City residents that choose to exercise their voting rights,” said Matherly, noting that in recent years Fairbanks residents have voted to reject increased property taxes and in favor of marijuana legalization.
“I look forward to receiving continued input from Fairbanks residents and businesses as we go forward,” said Matherly. “This veto will allow time to solicit and assimilate input which will mature into the ballot proposition.”
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