Anchorage Chamber of Commerce against initiative to regulate bathrooms

The Anchorage Chamber of Commerce says it opposes a controversial voter initiative that would regulate the use of public bathrooms in the city.

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Proposition 1 on the Anchorage municipal election ballot seeks to limit who can enter bathrooms and other spaces, like locker rooms, based on a person’s biological sex at birth rather than their gender identity.

Supporters say it would protect privacy and give businesses and churches the ability to regulate bathrooms in accordance with their beliefs. Opponents say the measure would discriminate against transgender residents.

In a letter, the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce said this week the measure would be bad for business and that it would mark Anchorage as “unwelcoming.”

Kati Ward is campaign manager for Fair Anchorage, a coalition advocating that residents vote “no” on the proposition. Ward said negative impacts to other cities and states that passed similar initiatives — causing the cancellation of large, revenue-generating events — was likely on the minds of Anchorage Chamber of Commerce board members.

“While they may have a more conservative reputation, I think that at the end of the day it relates back to the economy,” Ward said. “And we know that this ballot proposition, like it has done in the Lower 48, isn’t good for communities, for various reasons.”

The Anchorage Assembly passed a law in 2015 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. That pertains to housing, employment and public facilities. Proposition One would amend the law in regards to so-called “intimate” spaces, including bathrooms.

The Anchorage Chamber of Commerce represents more than 900 companies that employ over 50,000 people.

The election is April 3, but ballots for Anchorage’s first-ever vote by mail are set to start going out in mid-March.