After lengthy delay, city of Fairbanks finally passes anti-discrimination ordinance

(Photo by Mel Green/Creative Commons)

Update: This post has been updated with correct information about the business exemption. The anti-discrimination protections apply to businesses with four or more employees.

An anti-discrimination that was first scheduled for a vote in December was finally approved by the Fairbanks City Council on Monday night.

The ordinance grants equal rights protections for housing, employment and public accommodations for multiple demographics, including the LGBTQ community. It comes at the end of “nearly nine hours of work sessions, almost eight hours of public comment and many hundreds more correspondences,” according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The passage of the ordinance had been much-anticipated, and the News-Miner reported that people arrived as early as 10:30 a.m. in order to testify at the evening meeting. The ordinance had been delayed from its original vote after religious push back.

The major changes to the ordinance at Monday’s hearing included setting the exemption for businesses at businesses with fewer than four employees. The committee, per the News-Miner, also added explicit exemptions for “religious corporations, associations, educational institutions or societies” from the legislation.

The ordinance was first brought forward by Councilwoman Kathryn Ottersten, the council’s first openly transgender woman elected in 2018, who spoke throughout the process about the discrimination—and violence—that she’s experienced first-hand.

“In my life, and I hope nobody goes through this, I have been attacked, I’ve been denied jobs, I’ve lost my housing and to this day I have physical injuries that cause me to be unable to do other things because I’ve been attacked for who I am,” she said at the December meeting. “When I sit and say to you that I hope no one ever goes through that again, I mean it.”

The amended ordinance passed the council 4-2.

One of the two dissenting votes was Councilman David Pruhs, who told the Interior GOP luncheon (held in the back room of the Denny’s every Friday) that LGBTQ people that claimed to be victims of discrimination were “full of shit,” according to audio recording posted by local activist group the Hrrrl Scouts to its YouTube page. He made the comments while defending Fairbanks as a place free from discrimination.

He received an “amen” and applause from the Republican audience.

When asked about his comments by the News-Miner, Pruhs said “I stand by every word I said.”

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