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Opponents of Prop 5, Anchorage LGBT rights initiative, accused of gay-bashing

Alex DeMarban
Aaron Jansen illustration

Despite broad support from donors and a new poll that favors their position, backers of a proposal to protect gay and transgender people from discrimination in Anchorage remained on the offensive Tuesday, blasting new opposition ads they said could lead to a backlash against the LGBTQ community and their allies.

Prominent supporters of Yes on 5 -- One Anchorage joined forces at a press conference and said they want the TV cartoon ads and their "offensive" characters -- the most outrageous depicts a burly man in high heels who brings a complaint against a daycare provider for not hiring him -- stricken from the airwaves. Click here and here to see some of the other depictions.

"The ads opposing Proposition 5 depict unacceptably offensive and intentionally stigmatizing and distorted cartoons of gay and transgender individuals," said former Gov. Tony Knowles. "Such dehumanizing stereotypes do not represent the values we share as a community."

Not going to happen, said Jim Minnery, head of opposition group Protect Your Rights -- Vote No on 5. He called the ads effective and said calls for their removal are helping him raise money because people are offended at the effort to squelch free speech.    

Minnery strategizes with Catholic Anchor

Proposition 5 will ask voters next Tuesday to determine whether the municipality's anti-discrimination code should be expanded to include sexual orientation and transgender identity. The debate has risen to new levels in recent days, even taking on the tones of a national effort to pit blacks and gays against each other and split key factions of the Democratic Party. The National Organization for Marriage led that effort, according to the group's once-internal documents and a story at the website Buzzfeed.

Minnery said he regularly strategizes with the Catholic Anchor, the newspaper of the Anchorage Archdiocese, about how to "reform" society. In a newsletter to supporters, he praised a Catholic Anchor article that quoted some leading black pastors in Anchorage, including Alonzo Patterson, head of the large Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church. Patterson said homosexuality is "immoral" and the gay-rights movement shouldn't be compared to the 1960s Civil Rights movement, according to the article.

Minnery said he wasn't trying to divide blacks and gays, and hasn't been in contact with the National Organization for Marriage. "I don't know about driving a wedge between them," he said. "What we're doing is trying to put some truth to the myth" that the two movements -- gay rights and civil rights for blacks -- are aligned.

Wanda Greene said the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People holds a different view than Patterson's.  She heads the group's Anchorage chapter and said the NAACP believes that an individual has no more control over their sexual orientation than other people have over their color or gender. For the NAACP, the issue is about civil rights, not religion.

"The Constitution protects us all from discrimination," she said. "They've counted on us to stand with them, and we have also depended on them," she said of gay and transgender activists. "We're all one community."

Poll: Majority of voters favor Prop 5

Meanwhile, what appears to be the first poll on the proposition shows 50 percent favor the proposal while 41 percent oppose. Of 500 Anchorage voters surveyed by pollster Dittman Research and Communications Corp., just 9 percent are undecided.

The independent poll, conducted March 25-26, also shows Mayor Dan Sullivan commanding a substantial lead over top contender Paul Honeman in the municipal race for mayor. Of those surveyed, 56 percent said they would "most likely" vote for Sullivan. Thirty-five percent favored Honeman, 8 percent were undecided and 1 percent favored someone else.

The poll was not sponsored by any group or candidate, Dittman Research said in a statement. Honeman, whose attacks against the mayor over snow-plowing have proven controversial, is now hitching his fortunes to Proposition 5. The proposition would simply give "gay and transgender Alaskans the same legal protections that each and every person in our community enjoy," Honeman said on his website. "We need a community that's inclusive of all who live in Anchorage."

In 2009, Sullivan vetoed an Anchorage Assembly-passed proposal that would have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation, saying there was not enough "quantifiable" evidence of that discrimination.   

One Anchorage raises most money

Meanwhile, more money is flowing toward both sides. New campaign disclosure reports filed on Tuesday showed One Anchorage smashed the opposition in donations. One Anchorage has taken in $328,000 all together. And since the start of March, the group took in $96,000, recording more than 200 donations. The vast majority were from Southcentral residents giving $300 or less. The largest check in the reporting period, by far, came from Colorado entrepreneur and nationally known gay-rights activist Tim Gill, who contributed $25,000. The American Civil Liberties Union gave $10,000.

Protect Your Rights -- Vote No on 5 had not filed its latest report by Tuesday evening -- the deadline was not until midnight. Reached Tuesday afternoon, Minnery said Protect Your Rights was preparing to file the Alaska Public Offices Commission report. "We certainly won't have as much as the other side," he said.

Protect Your Rights' last report, filed March 9, showed it had taken in just $4,475 from four donors. The largest contribution was $3,025 from Chapel By the Sea, a church near Oceanview in South Anchorage.

But other reports filed Tuesday showed Protect Your Rights got a massive boost from the Anchorage Baptist Temple. Paperwork filed by the temple, led by Pastor Jerry Prevo, shows that it gave $80,000 to another group called Protect Your Freedoms -- Vote No on 5. Listed as contact for that group is Glenn Clary, an assistant pastor at the temple. The group reported Tuesday that it gave $45,000 to Protect Your Rights.

In an email alert sent earlier in the day, Minnery appealed to supporters asking for more money so his group can make more opposition ads. "The bad news is that we are literally out of funds right now. We've spent pretty much everything that has come in and we're now living hour to hour," he wrote.

'We hit a nerve'

The characters depicted in the group's TV ads are reminiscent of tactics that historically led to oppression, said One Anchorage spokesperson Trevor Storrs, according to a statement from his group.

Violence against transgender people is very real, he said. "This is wrong and we expect the opposition campaign to do the right thing and remove these ads from the Internet and take them off the air."

Nope, Minnery told the Dispatch.

"We have no inkling whatsoever to take ads off. It made me realize we hit a nerve, so we'll probably turn up the volume," he said.

One Anchorage also announced Tuesday it was releasing new ads that "tell the stories of real gay and transgender people who face the real threat of being fired or kicked out of their homes every day," Storrs said.

"Here in Anchorage, gay residents are being fired just because of who they are. To claim otherwise is simply false. Real discrimination really hurts real people. Life is not a cartoon.”

Contact Alex DeMarban at alex(at)alaskadispatch.com