The Soldotna City Council at its meeting Wednesday will consider a resolution of support for Alaska House Bill 198, which would expand Alaska’s hate crimes statute to include sexual orientation or gender identity.
Currently, Alaska statutes allow the court system to increase the sentencing of defendants convicted of crimes that are found to be motivated by a victim’s race, sex, color, creed, physical or mental disability, ancestry or national origin. HB 198 would include sexual orientation and gender identity to that list.
Soldotna Councilman Jordan Chilson is introducing the resolution. He and many other elected officials attended a town hall meeting Jan. 4 in Soldotna to discuss safety among the LGBTQ community. The meeting was held in response to reported incidents of harassment and physical attack against a Sterling woman, who appears to have been targeted because of her sexual orientation or advocacy in the LGBTQ community.
At the town hall, Rep. Gary Knopp said he supports expanding Alaska’s hate crimes legislation.
“What we can do is add gender ID and sexual orientation to existing statutes that put the aggravators in there so during sentencing, it likens it to a hate crime,” Knopp said.
Also at the town hall, Chilson pledged that the Soldotna City Council would consider a resolution of support for the legislation.
“As the fabric of our communing moving forward, I would challenge you to take what we have discussed here and spread that empathy, spread that understanding into our community because we will make it one that is inclusive for all," Chilson said. "And through the spread of love and compassion, we can respond to hate and shut it down.”
Soldotna’s might not be the only local resolution of support. Several representatives of the Kenai City Council and Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly attended the town hall and many spoke in favor of standing up against discrimination and crime targeting LGBTQ members of the community.
The Soldotna City Council meets at 6 p.m. Jan. 22 in at Soldotna City Hall.