KETCHIKAN, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska mayor has vetoed a resolution asking the state Legislature to expand sexual and gender identity protection, claiming the action could result in discrimination against Christians.
Ketchikan Gateway Borough Mayor Rodney Dial issued the veto Tuesday on the grounds that the draft equal rights resolution was “anti-Christian” and violated the First Amendment protection of religious expression, The Ketchikan Daily News reported.
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly voted 6-1 in favor of the resolution Monday.
The resolution sponsored by Vice Mayor AJ Pierce and Assembly Member Sven Westergard called for the Legislature to add “sexual orientation and gender identity” to the list of attributes the state Commission of Human Rights is empowered to protect.
The resolution noted other Alaska communities have passed similar protections, including Anchorage, Sitka, Juneau, Fairbanks and Bethel.
A statewide policy change would ultimately shift discrimination from members of the LGBTQ community to Christian business owners, Dial said.
“The requested action would lead to Christian persecution in our community by empowering individuals to use the law to force Christian-owned businesses to compromise their religious beliefs or face lawsuits and civil penalties, designed to force their compliance or shut them down,” Dial wrote in his veto statement.
Dial urged assembly members to issue a new resolution “that does not benefit one group at the expense of another.”
Assembly Member Susan Pickrell cast the only vote opposing the resolution.
“I don’t believe that a particular group should be given additional rights in this way,” Pickrell said. “And I don’t believe this resolution is the right way to go about that.”
Pierce, Westergard and assembly members Felix Wong and Austin Otos indicated they planned to support an attempt to override the veto.
The Ketchikan assembly earlier this year passed a city anti-discrimination measure in response to an alleged case of discrimination at Heavenly Creations, a flower shop that refused to provide services for the wedding of a gay couple.