FAIRBANKS — The state of LGBT equality in Fairbanks has dramatically improved from last year, according to a report released Wednesday by the Human Rights Campaign.
Almost none of the improvement in the report came at the local level, or as the result of any city or state legislation, though. Nearly every point of improvement in the city’s score this year came as the result of a ruling by a federal District Court judge who overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
The Human Rights Campaign’s report — the Municipal Equality Index — examines laws, policies and regulations implemented by about 350 of the country’s cities. It assigns each city a score, with the highest possible score equalling 100 points.
Of the 24 points assigned to Fairbanks in the Index, 18 came as a direct result of the Oct. 12 same-sex marriage ruling. Outside of those 18 points, Fairbanks still saw improvement — tripling its 2013 score, in fact.
In 2013, Fairbanks received a total score of two points. The Human Rights Campaign awarded the city those two points for providing equivalent family leave to same-sex couples who at the time could not legally marry under state law.
This year, Fairbanks was awarded six points outside those created in the wake of the same-sex marriage ruling. It kept its two points for providing equivalent family time, though that is now a statewide requirement, and it also received four points for the recent creation of a city diversity council.
Fairbanks Mayor John Eberhart said his administration has undertaken several tasks in an attempt to improve the city’s openness to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents. Foremost, Eberhart highlighted the creation of the Fairbanks Diversity Council in March, which came about as the result of an ordinance he introduced and which the council passed unanimously.
Eberhart touted the fact that the diversity council, which is composed of 15 voting members, has at least two members of the gay community.
The report’s author, Kathryn Oakley, said one of the key items she ideally would like to see from cities with room for improvement would be the implementation of inclusive nondiscrimination wording for all potential city employees and contractors.
“There’s a lot more to be done, and I think Alaska’s score cards reflect that,” Oakley said. “Hopefully we’ll have a success story soon from Alaska.”
Eberhart pointed out that under his leadership the city has proposed the addition of nondiscrimination clauses for sexual orientation to contracts with its various unions as renegotiations come up. In particular, Eberhart stated the Fairbanks chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers had agreed to the addition in its new contract with the city.
Beyond that, Eberhart said he did not have any specific proposals planned to address issues raised in the Municipal Equality Index, though he mentioned the issue of hate crime reporting as one possible topic his administration might discuss with incoming Fairbanks Police Chief Randall Aragon.
“I intend to hopefully let (the Human Rights Campaign) know these things so it may hopefully improve (the city’s score) in the future,” he said.
Oakley said she isn’t interested in shaming cities into compliance. She said the idea is more focused on highlighting the successes of some cities and showing the areas in which other cities can follow their lead to do the same.
“I don’t think shaming is the right way to go about it,” she said. “We’ve given you a road map to getting 100. So you can go out and get it if you want it.”
The full report and links to Fairbanks’ report card can be found online at www.hrc.org/mei.
Contact staff writer Weston Morrow at 459-7520. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMschools.