Alaska lawmakers to sponsor bill adding LGBTQ category to hate crime statute

By  | 

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Three Alaska lawmakers will sponsor a bill that would add an LGBTQ category to Alaska’s hate crimes statute.

Currently, Alaska’s hate crimes laws cover a person’s race, sex, color, creed, physical or mental disability, ancestry or national origin.

Sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected classes under Alaska hate crime law.

Rep. Andy Josephson, an Anchorage Democrat, and Rep Grier Hopkins, a Democrat from Fairbanks, have prefiled a bill that would add an additional LGBTQ category.

“It would be as simple as adding five words,” Josephson said.

The legislation means a longer sentence could be added by a district attorney if an LGBTQ person is targeted during a crime due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The proposal to change Alaska’s hate crimes statute was sparked by a threat and then two alleged attacks against Tammie Willis, a gay rights activist in Soldotna, in November.

On Wednesday, Alaska State Troopers confirmed that no suspect has been charged and no links have been established between the incidents.

A town hall meeting was held in Soldotna on Saturday on LGBTQ safety in Alaska. Willis said local residents told stories of trauma, bullying and abuse but she was encouraged by the turnout which was over 100 people.

“I was really surprised with how many people outside the LGBTQ community showed up,” Willis said.

In attendance was Rep. Gary Knopp, a Republican from Kenai, who pledged to also propose a bill that would add an LGBTQ category to Alaska hate crime statute.

“Everyone deserves equal protection,” he said in an interview by phone.

Knopp said he did not know Josephson and Hopkins were planning to prefile the same bill and he would join their efforts.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All Rights Reserved.