Discrimination in Anchorage

The ballot for Anchorage, Alaska’s April 3 municipal election will include an initiative to define “sex” based on a person’s “original birth certificate” and in doing so ban transgender people from using appropriate public restroom facilities. It would also reverse portions of a 2015 LGBT non-discrimination ordnance, effectively allowing private business owners to kick transgender people out of bathrooms and locker rooms, according to a report by The Daily Beast.

Kati Ward, campaign manager for advocacy group Fair Anchorage, said that the ballot initiative came from backlash against progress the LGBT community has made in recent years.

About 40 percent of Alaska’s population lives in the municipality of Anchorage, with another 15 percent or so living in the surrounding region, the Daily Beast report, by Samantha Allen, notes.

Nearly 30 percent of Alaska’s transgender residents live in poverty. Some 18 percent of Alaskan respondents to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey said that they were unemployed, 3 percent higher than the national figure and 14 percent higher than the current U.S. unemployment rate among the general population.

In addition, 23 percent of transgender Alaskans that responded said that they had been homeless in the past year due to being transgender, compared to 12 percent of all transgender respondents to the national survey. And more than half said they had “avoided using a public restroom in the past year because they were afraid of confrontations or other problems they might experience.”

Ward also told Allen that in Alaska, “Most people don’t have the ability to pack up —whether they’re taking their car with them or not — and just leave because it costs so much money to leave this state.”

Progress in New Hampshire

On the other side of the country, the New Hampshire voted today (Wednesday, March 7) to expand the state’s anti-discrimination law to include transgender people.

New Hampshire law already bans discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sex, religion and sexual orientation. Today’s vote would extend those protections based on gender identity.

Lawmakers tabled a virtually identical bill last year, leaving New Hampshire the only New England state without such protections.

A victory for equality in court

Also today, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, in EEOC v. RG & GR Harris Funeral Homes, that Title VII, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, includes protections for transgender workers in the case.

The ruling is a blow to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ anti-LGBT efforts. Under his leadership the past year, the Department of Justice rescinded a policy that argued that transgender workers were protected under Title VII. About two weeks ago, on Feb. 26, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that sexual orientation is also protected under Title VII. A Department of Justice amicus brief in that case had argued otherwise.