A political ad on the airwaves in Anchorage, Alaska, claims that a day care center would be forced to hire a “transvestite who wants to work with toddlers” if the city approves an amendment to its human rights law to prohibit discrimination based on “sexual orientation” and “transgender identity.”
Another ad claims that a local fitness gym would have to “open the women’s locker room to anyone who claims a female identity.” It depicts that person as a hairy balding man with a ponytail taking off his swimsuit in the locker room while nearby women scream and cover themselves in apparent shock.
Both ads, done in the form of cartoons, depict the beneficiaries of the proposed new law as burly men hiding behind women’s clothing. They are a new twist on old themes for opponents of civil rights protections for transgender people. But they are the weapons unleashed on Anchorage television to defeat Proposition 5, a ballot measure up for vote on Tuesday, April 3.
The ads were produced by “Protect Your Rights,” a group organized to “educate and equip residents of the Municipality of Anchorage to understand the serious threats associated with Proposition 5,” according to the group’s website. And, according to the Alaska Dispatch newspaper, the effort is largely funded by contributions from a group created by the Anchorage Baptist Temple, run by local anti-gay activist Jerry Prevo.
Yes on 5-One Anchorage, a coalition supporting the ballot measure, has spent even more on its television ads, but has cried foul against the No on 5 group. It says the No on 5 group’s ads are making “false claims about the legal effects of Proposition 5.”
“Moreover,” says Yes on 5, “the TV versions of these ads contain highly offensive cartoon imagery which seeks to dehumanize and demean our transgender friends, family and neighbors.”
The coalition held a press conference Tuesday (March 27), asking the No on 5 group to pull the ads from the airwaves. The “Protect Your Rights” group leader, Jim Minnery, refused. He told the Anchorage Daily News that the ads point out a “shocking flaw” of the proposed amendment: it doesn’t define “transgender.”
Proposition 5 would add “sexual orientation” and “transgender identity” to the existing non-discrimination law that applies in matters of the sale or rental of property, finance, employment, public accommodations, education, and “practices of the municipality.” The measure does define “sexual orientation” as “an individual’s heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality.” But does not define “transgender identity.”
Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Alaska, said the definition for “sexual orientation” was necessary because of opponents’ attempts to claim that it would prohibit discrimination based on pedophilia, necrophilia, and other sexual disorders. But “transgender identity,” he said, is something the courts are “well aware of.”
“They know it’s not a person who wakes up and says, ‘Today, I feel like a boy’ or ‘Today, I feel like a girl’,” said Mittman. “Opponents are pretending this is a flaw. They are intentionally misrepresenting Proposition 5 to voters…and even if there had been a complete definition, they would still oppose it.”
Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, agrees.
“The term ‘transgender’ has a commonly accepted, well understood meaning,” said Minter. “There is no need to define such a commonly understood term in the statute, just as the statute does not define ‘homosexuality,’ ‘heterosexuality,’ or ‘bisexuality.’ Those who oppose the statute do so because they oppose equality for LGBT people. Their claims otherwise are just a pretext for prejudice. That is crystal clear from their ads, which exploit the most hateful and offensive stereotypes that gay and transgender people pose a danger to children.”