A member of the Soldotna City Council has introduced a resolution to support state legislation that would expand the state’s hate crime aggravators to include protections for LGBTQ individuals.
The resolution states that “The Council of the City of Soldotna supports the expansion of hate crime protections under AS 12.55.155(c)(22) to include ‘sexual orientation or gender identity’ through Alaska House Bill 198.”
Alaska Statute 12.55.155(c) defines a number of aggravators that can be considered when a judge is determining the sentence for an individual convicted of a crime. Section 22 of this statute says that one of the factors to be considered is if the person in question “knowingly directed the conduct constituting the offense at a victim because of that person’s race, sex, color, creed, physical or mental disability, ancestry or national origin.”
HB 198, introduced by Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, would amend section 22 of AS 12.55.155(c) to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the list of protected categories.
HB 198 was introduced after a Soldotna LGBTQ advocate was assaulted in December, in an attack she believes may have been motivated by her sexual orientation. As a result, members of the community held a town hall in Soldotna related to LGBTQ safety on Jan. 4, during which they called on state lawmakers to change hate crime laws in Alaska to include protections for LGBTQ individuals. Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Soldotna, attended the town hall and said that he would support such legislation.
Knopp is not currently a sponsor of HB 198, according to the Alaska Legislature’s website, but he told the Clarion on Saturday that he intends to co-sponsor the bill when the 2020 legislative session starts on Jan. 22. Knopp said he had introduced similar legislation but withdrew his bill once he learned of Josephson’s.
Chilson was also in attendance at the town hall and said that he would call on Soldotna’s City Council to support the legislation.
“If you look at this nationally, a lot of states have already passed legislation along these lines, so this is basically just Alaska playing catch-up,” Chilson said on Saturday. “As a city we don’t have the power to expand hate crime laws in the state, but the least we can do is support this kind of legislation.”
The Soldotna resolution, if enacted, would go into effect immediately. The Soldotna City Council will meet on Jan. 22 to vote on the resolution.