No legislative session is complete without controversy, and often this controversy is time-consuming and a distraction from the deep work needed to build up the state. The Governor’s introduction this week of a policy proposal to directly discriminate against LGBTQ youth in schools and prohibit discussion of gender identity and sexual education, among other items - under the guise of a “parental rights” bill - checked the box for the session.
The fact that this bill was never designed to pass, nor doing anything beyond whip up those on either side, is readily apparent due to the State Senate numbers. There is absolutely no chance, especially so after the Senate organized around a moderate majority, that this type of legislation will go anywhere. The Governor is apparently not a vote counter; instead, he is a counterproductive bully pulpiter. This invention of the far-right that LGBTQ individuals and Drag Queens represent an existential threat to America is perhaps the most deranged symptom of the far-right’s current illness.
The idea that the religious right-wing believes they own the term “Parental Rights” is sad, misguided, and arrogant. There are many more parents in this state and in America who believe they have a Parental Right to send their children to public schools so they can learn respect for all, how to treat those with differences with dignity, and how our long struggle as a society for equality and justice continues with our youth. A vast majority of American parents have a right to want their children equipped for the challenges and opportunities ahead and to attend well-funded public schools. A vast majority of American parents have a right to see their kids head off to the future following opportunity, to explore, learn, to keep an open mind and an open heart. A parent has a right to home-school their kids, send them to a religious school, or an academy, a charter school, an online school or other option - a zealous minority does not have some exclusive right to impose discriminatory policies on not just LGBTQ youth, but to all other students and parents who seek a just education system.
The Governor is not an imaginative sort, apparently, as this type of policy is a cookie cutter from other states where politicians want to appeal to a malicious strain in the American electorate energized by Trump. It is a sickening policy approach, designed to punish an at-risk minority, and to put an authoritarian thumb on public school teachers and public education. Guess who is emerging as a major fan girl in the State House? Representative Jamie Allard. Shocker. Maybe the Man Without a Caucus Rep. David Eastman will hoot and holler in support. The bill will surely get airplay in the House, and the would-be discriminators will fill hearings with their sanctimony while those already dealing with discrimination will respond with factual accounts of discrimination. (Like for instance, the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights deleting equal protections for LGBTQ Alaskans against most categories of discrimination on the advice of the State Attorney General, and refusing to investigate complaints.)
The fight for LGBTQ protections in Alaska and nationally has been long-standing, and the struggle continues today. From attacks on our LGBTQ youth, particularly trans youth, in schools and extracurricular sports, to the Dunleavy Administration's attacks on workplace protections and privacy for LGBTQ Alaskans - our leadership has made clear they do not see LGBTQ people as their constituents - but as a problem to attack. Alaskans do not take these attacks lightly. We stand committed and will fight to ensure policies like these are defeated. We are grateful for partners like Planned Parenthood Advocates Alaska and Native Movement, tracking these policies and working with our elected leaders to secure protections. You can take action now by calling the Governor's office (907-465-3500) or emailing your representatives and telling them that Alaska is no place for hate and signing on to Native Movement's letter. LGBTQ Alaskans deserve better; and have the right to live free from bigotry and oppression. And we will fight to ensure it is so.
The Alaska Center
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