Controversial Anchorage bathroom bill will go on April ballot

Anchorage voters will decide next spring how public bathrooms are going to be regulated. According to the municipal clerk’s office, a citizens’ initiative has gathered enough signatures from supporters to go before voters on the April 3rd ballot in 2018.

Listen now

The measure seeks to regulate bathrooms, locker-rooms and other “intimate spaces” on the basis of biological sex rather than gender identity, as is the current policy. If a majority of voters approve the item, it would amend a 2015 law passed by the Anchorage Assembly barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment and public facilities.

A large amount of organizing around the initiative has come from Alaska Family Action, which calls itself a “public policy ministry” standing for conservative values. Supporters say the policy change will protect their privacy in places like locker rooms, and give churches and private businesses the ability to regulate bathrooms in line with their beliefs.

The ballot measure has already sparked controversy and an opposition campaign among those who say it would discriminate against transgender residents. A coalition of groups opposed to the measure called Fair Anchorage said they will focus on a public education campaign over the next several months.

In a statement today, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz called the measure “divisive and distracting,” and said he opposes it.

The same election in April determines who will be the city’s next mayor. Berkowitz has not formally announced yet whether or not he’ll run for a second term.

Turn out in municipal elections with a mayoral race on the ballot tend to be slightly higher.

2018 will be the first year Anchorage switches to the new vote by mail system.