While we enjoy our holiday season, celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, let’s remember the disaster that hit us in Fairbanks last year. It really brings to mind the need to pray for our state and communities, and the need to be involved in electing conservative candidates at the local level.
At last year’s first City Council meeting in December, with little fanfare, the Fairbanks City Council brought forth a Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity (SOGI) ordinance. With sponsors on both sides of the aisle it looked like a sure thing, but thankfully the conservatives in Fairbanks caught wind of it and alerted everyone of the impending vote.
The common thread in all these cases is that it was always Christians or Christian organizations who had to go to court to protect their religious liberty
These SOGI ordinances have been enacted in many places around the country and have always resulted in court case after court case. Here in Alaska, there was a big case in Anchorage where a man attempted to get into a women’s homeless shelter and wasn’t allowed. That dispute was finally resolved in favor of the shelter. The most famous case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It concerned a cake baker in Colorado who wouldn’t make a cake specifically designed for a same-sex wedding, though he had no problem selling his normal cakes to anyone who wanted one, regardless of their sexual orientation or expression. Many of the lawsuits are based on whether someone can be forced to create art that contradicts their deeply held moral beliefs.
The common thread in all these cases is that it was always Christians or Christian organizations who had to go to court to protect their religious liberty. The proposed SOGI ordinance in Fairbanks wouldn’t have been any different. It made clear that churches and religious schools wouldn’t be able to hire those who share their beliefs, that men would have access to women’s restrooms (and in fact disallowed single-sex restrooms). It also allowed lawsuits against businesses by those who just think that they weren’t hired or were fired for being LGBTQ. In addition, it had a subtle section that would protect stoners from being fired because they were stoners! If that wasn’t enough there was a section that stated that if you spoke out against the ordinance you were in violation of it.
When the public, churches and businesses caught wind of this they immediately let the council and mayor know their displeasure. The City Council postponed it until February of 2018 and scheduled a few work sessions. After much testimony, for and against, it came up at the February meeting and passed 4-2, with one of the original sponsors voting against it. Mayor Jim Matherly then vetoed it with the intention to let voters decide. The LGBTQ community then asked the mayor not to put it on the ballot, so it wasn’t brought forth to the council.
Fairbanks is now in a year of peace, but next year will really tell the tale.
In the wake of all this, the mayoral and council elections for 2019 focused on the SOGI ordinance. It was a vicious campaign as those who supported the ordinance knew no bounds for their vitriol on social media against the mayor. We even had national environmental groups and Planned Parenthood endorsing candidates on the other side. The money was on their side. When the dust settled on election day, however, it was a clear victory for Mayor Matherly, and in the one council seat where we had a conservative running – Aaron Gibson.
Fairbanks is now in a year of peace, but next year will really tell the tale. Both of the conservatives who voted against the ordinance will be termed out from the City Council, and it will be a tougher race for the two City Council seats. At least one seat needs to be won by a conservative to keep the SOGI at bay. There is now a great need in Fairbanks for a few good people to step up and run for office. The sooner that decision is made, the better for their campaign. Please pray for Fairbanks in the 2020 election year. Don’t let the local election get lost in the business of the presidential and state races.
The writer is an engineer, born and raised in Fairbanks. He is a former member of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly.