By a vote of 8-1, the Juneau Borough Assembly effectively criminalized efforts by churches, non-profits or local businesses to operate their outreaches and organizations in accord with deeply held beliefs about human sexuality.
On Aug. 22 the Juneau Assembly passed an ordinance that forces gender theory and transgender acceptance on all citizens by establishing sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression as legally protected classifications. Gender identity means the sex a person identifies with regardless of their given biology at birth. Gender expression is how people outwardly present themselves — male, female or otherwise — in clothing and physical appearance.
By adding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression as protected classes, Juneau becomes the second Alaska city to do so. The new ordinance also prohibits discrimination based on race, age, religion, disability and other categories but those classifications are already covered under state law.
Supporters of the ordinance claimed it protects those who identify as gay, bisexual or transgender from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations.
Juneau City Manager Rorie Watt officially recommended that the ordinance be adopted and the Alaska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) praised the law saying it “reaffirmed that Juneau is a welcoming and inclusive community for everyone.”
The ACLU, which nationwide actively lobbies for laws that enforce gay, lesbian and transgender rights, said the Juneau law ensures that “nearly half of all Alaskans now live in a city with inclusive non-discrimination laws.”
Across the nation, however, religious liberty advocates have warned that such laws serve to compel local churches, faith-based groups and small business owners to violate deeply held beliefs by forcing them to hire employees who are openly living a homosexual and/or transgender lifestyle, while also forcing service companies and rental organizations to promote and facilitate causes and events which violate their moral beliefs, especially in the area of sexuality.
In communities around the country, bakers, photographers, stationery companies and even private schools and charitable organizations have been threatened with fines or driven out of business after declining to participate in homosexual and transgender events or activities. In these cases it was not a matter of refusing to sell or provide services to homosexual individuals. Rather, business owners simply declined to lend their services or facilities to facilitate activities — such as same-sex weddings — which run contrary to their deeply held moral or religious beliefs.
The Catholic Church, like many religious groups throughout the nation, opposes unjust discrimination against homosexuals, but affirms that sexual activity is designed to take place solely within the context of marriage between one man and one woman.
Like the 2015 Anchorage law, the new Juneau ordinance contains no religious exemptions for individuals unaffiliated with a recognized religious group. Business owners and nonprofit groups, for instance, have no religious exemption protections when it comes to facilitating events and messages that run contrary to their deeply held beliefs about human sexuality.
Also, like Anchorage’s law, even the approved exemptions for religious groups are limited. For religious institutions, there is a “ministerial exemption” but it only applies when hiring or retaining employees who work in areas of religious teaching, governance or worship. Employees such as general education teachers, social workers, administrators, janitors and others could not be required to conduct themselves according to core behavioral values of the religious institution, despite the fact that many churches, religious schools and other institutions often consider the entire community, including all employees, as part and parcel of their common mission.
In passing the new ordinance the Juneau law received little resistance from residents or religious groups. On the night it passed only two people spoke out against the ordinance. Assembly Member Jerry Nankervis was the only person to vote against the ordinance.
With its passage, Juneau residents can now sue business owners, renters, non-profit groups, service providers and religious groups when they feel they have been discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and gender expression. Courts could then mandate that the accused hire the aggrieved, pay back wages and undergo sensitivity training and workplace evaluation.