Alaska gay rights advocates might recall 2012 as the year Anchorage voters refused to allow lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people access to the local equal rights commission, the only place besides the courts where a person can go to seek justice in the face of discrimination. But last April’s election is not the whole story. The year 2012 was a time of quieter revolution, in which a new interpretation of an old law could allow transgender individuals some access to the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission. Local voters and elected officials had no say in the matter—and they likely won’t—because in this case the tide is turning due to a series of legal decisions across the country about gender equality, which has been protected under federal law since the 1960s. One of the duties of the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission is to enforce Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title 7 makes it illegal for employers to refuse to hire or to fire a person based on their “color, religion, sex or national origin” and now the word “sex” is being applied to include a person’s status as transgender.
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