Alaska Governor Bill Walker won election in 2014 after merging his campaign as an independent with that of Democratic nominee Byron Mallott. Mallott is currently the Lieutenant Governor.
In a joint session of the legislature, lawmakers waded through Walker's nominees for appointment to various positions in the government and only failed to confirm one person...transgender man Drew Phoenix for a position on the Alaska Human Rights Commission. The vote was 24 in favor and 35 in opposition.
Mr. Phoenix is transgender. That’s the thing people don’t want to talk about. He makes no secret about it and I don’t think we should judge him for that.
--Sen. Bill Wielechowski
Rev. Phoenix is a United Methodist Church pastor.
Several democrats spoke in support of the nominee. Two republicans voiced opposition, not because of his gender identity, but because of his past work with the American Civil Liberties Union and support of an Anchorage proposition expanding anti-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation and transgender identity.
A lot of it is there’s no problem with being an advocate. There’s probably no problem there at all until you get on that commission then you want to look at protecting all rights.
--Sen. John Coghill (R)
Phoenix’s confirmation was also opposed by Alaska Family Action. An email from the group reads, “You may remember Drew: the former ACLU employee, transgender activist, and spokesperson for the anti-religious freedom Proposition 5 in 2012."
Of course, Proposition 5 was only "anti-religious freedom" if you consider freedom to discriminate against LGBTQ people to be fundamental to your religion.
I feel what happened today way blatant discrimination based on the fact that I’m a transgender man. So what happened today is indicative of a continuing problem of discrimination in Alaska.
I just find it so ironic that somebody like myself, with so much years' experience personally and professional working on behalf of human rights, that they would not confirm me to the commission on human rights.
To see people vote down a very strong candidate for such thinly veiled reasons today was nothing short of, just, discrimination.
--Rep. Ivy Spohnholz (D)
Phoenix said the vote shows there’s much work left to do. He said people change their ideas about transgender people when they get to know him.
Transgender ceases to be a word and becomes an individual, who has values like they have. I’m a religious person, I’m Christian, they’re Christian. You know, I love my family, I believe in working hard and contributing to the community. And we all share the same values, and that’s how we learn to connect and learn to relate.
All but two Republicans voted against Phoenix. The exceptions were Kodiak Sen. Gary Stevens and Homer Rep. Paul Seaton. Democratic lawmakers voted for Phoenix, with three exceptions: Golovin Sen. Donny Olson, Bethel Sen. Lyman Hoffman, and Kotzebue Rep. Dean Westlake. House independents Jason Grenn of Anchorage and Daniel Ortiz of Ketchikan voted for Phoenix.