LGBTQ Americans in Alaska no longer have most of the legal protections against discrimination they had last year. That's an intentional act; while nobody was looking, Alaska's Republican attorney general quietly deleted language promising equal protections and informed the state's State Commission for Human Rights that anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity no longer apply in any situation other than in the workplace.
Housing, financial, and other forms of discrimination against LGBTQ Alaskans are now again deemed to be legal, and the commission has dropped the investigations that stemmed from those complaints.
ProPublica has the details. After the (hard-right!) Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that workplace discrimination against Americans for their sexual orientation or gender identity was illegal, the outcome of Bostock v. Clayton County, Alaska and other states moved forward under the presumption that that meant identical discrimination in housing, banking, or government services would also count as civil rights violations. Alaska's human rights commission adopted new guidelines stating as such in 2021, and began accepting complaints about such discrimination.
In 2022, however, after a heated Republican primary for the governorship that saw Gov. Mike Dunleavy painted as a veritable leftist by his Republican challengers, Dunleavy-appointed state attorney general Treg Taylor ordered the Commission for Human Rights executive director to reduce the scope of those protections via an email. The Taylor argument was that the Supreme Court only weighed in specifically on whether workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation was a civil rights violation, it didn't say landlords or banks or government agencies couldn't discriminate.
The logic: If the Supreme Court wants to ban discrimination in all those other forms, they're going to have to name each of them specifically. And while the state Supreme Court has also ruled that the Civil Rights Act must be the basis for Alaska's own anti-discrimination laws, that apparently also doesn't count. Either Alaska lawmakers make it explicit in the law, or it's up to each new government-appointed top lawguy to interpret those anti-discrimination provisions however broadly or narrowly as they see fit.
The ProPublica piece is worth a read, not just for the finer details but for the overview of the absolutely wacky political environment in which all this is taking place. Taylor is Dunleavy's third appointed attorney general; the first resigned for apparent sexual harassment of a young employee, and the second resigned before being indicted on three felony counts of sexual abuse of a minor. Dunleavy's been racking one heck of a record when it comes to attorney generals, and none of it speaks to state Republicans having much authority on questions surrounding sex and gender. Yeeesh.
Alaska's also part of a multi-state lawsuit looking to limit the Supreme Court's anti-discrimination ruling only to private workplaces, arguing that discrimination against LGBTQ Americans should still be allowed in schools and other government-run venues.
Two steps forward, one step back. Even the hardliner Supreme Court is willing to allow that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is a civil rights violation, but conservative officeholders who hold even harder-right views aren't about to roll over. They'll drag this out as long as they can, hoping that an even more conservative Supreme Court will erase the Bostock precedent at some point in the near future.
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