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‘We Need to Work On It’ Council Sets More Meetings on Anti-discrimination Ordinance

The Fairbanks City Council will conduct three more meeting this week to continue work on a controversial ordinance that’s intended to prohibit discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community and other groups.The work sessions will held Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at City Hall, beginning at 7 a.m. Mayor Jim Matherly says the council won’t be taking public comments during the meetings.

“They’re open to the public, but the council has decided to do only work itself on the ordinance,” Matherly said. “No public comment on those three days.”

Matherly says the council has already heard a lot of feedback for and against the ordinance, starting with more than three hours of heated testimony in a public hearing during the Dec. 10 meeting. That’s when the measure was scheduled for final consideration. But after the hearing, the council postponed a vote and instead scheduled three work sessions held last month.

“We had three work sessions in early January,” the mayor said. “And the council heard from experts around the field of HR, around the world of legal and then we took some public comment as well.”

The ordinance would add provisions to the City Code prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Advocates say the measure is only intended to protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination in the workplace and for such public accommodations as housing and employment. Opponents claim it will violate their rights and religious beliefs.

Matherly says now that council members have heard from the public and the experts, they want to get back to work on the measure.

“Most of our input has been from other people, and from the public,” he said. “Now, we need to work on it together.”

Matherly says the council may decide to schedule one last opportunity for public comment when it begins final consideration of the ordinance on Feb. 25.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.