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Ballot question on homosexual, transgender rights defeated in Anchorage
Catholic News Service

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Anchorage residents rejected a ballot initiative April 3 that sought to add "sexual orientation" and "transgender identity" to the list of protected legal classes in the city code.

With nearly 98 percent of votes counted, the measure was failing 58 percent to 42 percent. More than 54,000 residents voted on the April 3 ballot -- far more than city officials had expected. In fact, some precincts ran out of ballots and had to be restocked less than an hour before the polls closed.

Before the vote, religious liberty advocates had expressed concern that Anchorage-area churches, faith-based organizations and business owners would be forced to violate deeply held religious beliefs regarding the issue of homosexuality if a ballot initiative passed.

Anchorage Archbishop Roger Schwietz was among the prominent religious leaders who urged residents to vote against the ballot measure. Following the election, he issued a public statement affirming the dignity of each person.

"The people of the Anchorage Municipality have spoken, and Proposition 5 appears to have been defeated," he said. " Although I did not support Proposition 5, I fervently oppose unjust discrimination against any person or group.

"I pray that Anchorage will strive to be an ever more tolerant city for all our citizens," he added. "The basis for our social interaction must remain a deeply held respect for the dignity of each human person -- a dignity that comes not from the state but from our Creator. I reiterate what I stated in my pastoral letter, the Catholic Catechism No. 2358 states that people with homosexual tendencies 'must be accepted with respect and compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.'"

The initiative had been proposed by an Anchorage coalition of homosexual rights advocates, with the backing of several national gay rights organizations. According to state records, the group raised about $350,000 in support of the initiative -- three times more money than opponents raised.

The measure's opponents, which included more than 100 area pastors and priests, raised concerns that the proposed law could have required faith-based schools, private businesses and area churches to employ openly homosexual and transgender employees, while also forcing service companies and rental organizations to promote and facilitate causes and events that are contrary to their moral beliefs.

Before the vote, Archbishop Schwietz wrote an open letter to area churches warning that Proposition 5 threatens the religious freedoms of churches, schools, businesses and other organizations.

The letter denounced any attempt to "advance disrespect or unjust discrimination against people of homosexual orientation" but stated that there is "an essential distinction between unjust discrimination, which is the arbitrary violation of human rights, and the necessary limitations on the exercise of our rights when it is required to protect the justice that is due to others, and the common good."

Archbishop Schwietz added: "Proposition 5, regrettably, makes no such distinctions. It sweeps with a broad brush, and would usher in a new era of intolerance in Anchorage, all done in the name of 'ending discrimination.'" 

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