U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, voted against Anchorage’s anti-trans bathroom measure.
Proposition 1 was voted down on Friday by a 53 to 47 percent margin following a weeks-long mail-in vote which garnered the highest turnout of any election in the city’s history. If passed, the ballot measure would have forced trans people to use public bathrooms which correspond to the gender listed on their “original birth certificate.”
Companies like Wells Fargo and BP came out against Prop. 1, claiming the proposal was bad for business. Both mayoral candidates in the 2018 race, Democrat Ethan Berkowitz and Republican Rebecca Logan, denounced the measure.
On Monday, Murkowski added her name to that list.
Karina Petersen, communications director for the Alaska conservative, confirms in a phone conversation with INTO that Murkowski cast a ballot against Prop. 1. “Her reason for voting ‘No’ is that she believes we need development, not division in our community,” she says.
The Senator doesn’t usually disclose publicly how she votes in elections, but Petersen claims Prop. 1 was an issue about which Murkowski was particularly “passionate.”
She declined to offer further comment at this time.
Murkowski’s vote against Prop. 1which would have been America’s most extreme bathroom measure if signed into lawfollows the Republican lawmaker’s long evolution on LGBTQ rights.
After taking over her father’s seat in the U.S. Senate in 2002, Murkowski twice voted in favor of constitutional amendments limiting the federal definition of marriage to “one man and one woman”: in 2004 and 2006. At the time, she received a zero percent rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard, its lowest possible grade.
But in 2013, the second-generation lawmaker came out in favor of legalizing same-sex unions. Murkowski claimed in a heartfelt op-ed that her mind was changed after having lunch with two lesbian mothers raising four foster children.
“Our government does not meet this family halfway and allow them to be legally recognized as spouses,” Murkowski wrote.
“After their years of sleepless nights, after-school pickups and birthday cakes, if one of them gets sick or injured and needs critical care, the other would not be allowed to visit them in the emergency roomand the children could possibly be taken away from the healthy partner,” she continued. “They do not get considered for household health care benefit coverage like spouses nationwide.”
“This first-class Alaskan family still lives a second-class existence,” the Senator concluded.
Murkowski would go on to support the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” federal nondiscrimination laws preventing workplace bias against queer and trans people, and legislation imposing sanctions on foreign nations accused of LGBTQ rights abuses. In, 2013, she also voted in favor of LGBTQ inclusions in the Violence Against Women Act.
Advocacy groups applauded the Senator for continuing to support queer and trans communities by voting against Prop. 1.
“The National Center for Transgender Equality Action Fund thanks Sen. Lisa Murkowski for joining so many of her constituents in casting her vote against Proposition 1,” National Center for Trans Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling tells INTO in a statement. “In order to defeat discrimination, we must all come together around the shared principles of fairness, liberty, and equality.
“We look forward to working with the Senator to stand for those principles in Washington,” she adds.
HRC National Press Secretary Stephen Peters says it’s clear that the Senator saw Prop. 1 for “exactly what it wasa harmful and divisive measure intended to enshrine anti-transgender discrimination into law.”
“Every member of the Anchorage communityincluding transgender peopledeserves to be able to go to work, raise their family, and live their lives free from discrimination,” Peters claims in an emailed statement. “By rejecting Prop 1, voters rejected the politics of hate and fear and sent a powerful message that Anchorage is a welcoming and inclusive city.”
The LGBTQ advocacy group Freedom for All Americans believes that Murkowski’s vote is a reminder that many conservatives have embraced LGBTQ rights. Republicans Senators Mark Kirk of Illinois and Rob Portman of Ohio have also come out in favor of same-sex marriage.
“Sen. Murkowski’s vote to keep Anchorage fair for everyone, including transgender people, is indicative of a larger trend of Republicans who are increasingly moving to a place of support for basic transgender protections, as we saw when the GOP-controlled New Hampshire House passed a transgender nondiscrimination bill last month,” says Freedom for All Americans Executive Director Masen Davis in a statement.
“Discrimination is not a value that any politician should endorse,” he continues.
Fair Anchorage, the campaign which led the effort to defeat Prop. 1, claims it’s heartening to see that Murkowski “holds a similar stance as a majority of Anchorage voters.”
“Anchorage continues to be a welcoming city, which values treating all people fairly and ensures basic protections for everyone, including transgender people,” says Fair Anchorage Campaign Manager Kati Ward in a statement to INTO, adding that LGBTQ advocates are “grateful” for her support.
Six years ago Alaska’s largest city rejected nondiscrimination protections shielding queer and trans people from prejudice in housing, employment, and public accommodations by a decisive majority. An estimated 58 percent of voters cast a ballot against Proposition 5, whereas just 42 percent voted in favor the LGBTQ-inclusive proposal.
After the public vote failed, the Anchorage Assembly would pass those protections in 2015 following a 9-2 vote.
INTO also reached out to Alaska’s other Republican Senator, Dan Sullivan. His office was not able to return request for comment on the conservative’s vote prior to publication, but this story will be updated should Sullivan’s team respond.
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