Alaska commission passes measure to expand protections to LGBTQ population

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) The Alaska Human Rights Commission says the Legislature should pass a law to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

At the same time, the commission is working toward changing regulations to include those categories in the list of things that people are not allowed to discriminate against in places of employment, public accommodation, the sale or rental of real estate, financing or credit, or in government.

The current list includes race, color, religion, sex, national origin and physical or mental disability. In some instances it is also illegal to discriminate against someone because of their age, marital status or changes in marital status, pregnancy or parenthood, according to the commission's website.

On Wednesday, the commission voted four to one to pass a resolution that calls on the Legislature to “prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.”

The resolution is a “first step in changing Alaska law to prohibit discrimination and include protection” for the LGBTQ population in Alaska, which is estimated to be about 3.4 percent of the population or roughly 25,000 people, said Marti Buscaglia, the human rights commission’s executive director, in a news release.

“It just doesn’t make sense that we live in a state where you can marry your same sex partner and then get fired for doing so,” she said.

The resolution was introduced by Commissioner Brandon Nakasato.

“I felt that to help prevent and eliminate discrimination, we needed that change,” he told KTUU.

Nakasato said a bill to change the Alaska Human Rights Law to cover sexual orientation and gender identity and expression went nowhere in the Alaska Legislature last session. He hopes the resolution will encourage lawmakers to reintroduce and pass such legislation when lawmakers reconvene in January.

If not, the commission is moving to do so administratively in cooperation with the Department of Law, the governor’s office, and the Administrative, Regulation Review Committee. Public meetings will be held as the matter moves ahead, Nakasato said.

"My hope is that the law will finally catch up with the changing views of the American people, especially the Alaskan public. If we want to fulfill our mission of eliminating and preventing discrimination for all Alaskans, this is an important step,” he said.