Gay rights measure likely headed to Alaska ballots

Sponsors of an initiative to extend legal protections against discrimination to gay and transgender people in Anchorage on Thursday turned in a several-inch-high stack of petitions to the city clerk's office to put the measure on the April city election ballot.

Volunteers collected 13,515 signatures of Anchorage registered voters in support of the initiative, said Trevor Storrs, spokesman for One Anchorage, the group behind the initiative. Co-chairs of the group are former Gov. Tony Knowles and former state Sen. Arliss Sturgulewski.

To get on the ballot, the group needs just 5,871 valid signatures, city clerk Barbara Gruenstein said. She said it will take until sometime next week for her office to review the signatures.

A conservative Christian group, Alaska Family Council, is already planning to campaign against the measure.

The initiative is similar to a city ordinance that was passed by the Anchorage Assembly in 2009 after weeks of public hearings and debate, but then was vetoed by Mayor Dan Sullivan.

The fight before the Assembly was long and loud, with hundreds of people on both sides speaking out.

"I would be surprised if we saw anything as intense as it was before the Assembly" during the initiative campaign, said Assemblyman Patrick Flynn.

When he vetoed the gay rights ordinance in 2009, Sullivan said he was not convinced there is discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation here.

On Thursday, Sarah Erkmann, the mayor's spokeswoman, said this was his reaction to the initiative: "Mayor Sullivan believes a ballot initiative is appropriate in that it allows all citizens to weigh in on this subject."

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