The Kenai City Council on Wednesday joined Soldotna in passing a resolution supporting House Bill 198, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes under the state's existing hate crimes statute.
Tammie Willis testified to the council. She was attacked at her home in Sterling on Dec. 9. Before that, she found a note on her truck full of gay slurs and threatening violence. She also had her windshield smashed by a rock that bore a gay slur. She says the Federal Bureau of Investigations has taken over the case under the federal hate crimes statute, since Alaska law lacks a provision to consider the three instances together as a hate crime.
“For the life of me, I don't know why every other class was included in the list of aggravators but sexual orientation and gender identity,” Willis said. “But we are the population of people that is facing the most violence and the most hate right now. It's grown tremendously over the last three years and it's being definitely felt here on the peninsula, as well. So this is an important piece of legislation. And your resolution means a lot to us in the LGBTQ community because it shows that this is a community that's not going to tolerate the hate."
Willis says two things would change if HB 198 were to become law. It would mean hate crime statistics could be tracked for Alaska. There's currently no good way to gather that data since Alaska doesn't consider crimes motivated by anti-LGBTQ sentiment as hate crimes.
"Consequently, when a hate crime occurs towards someone in the LGBTQ community, whether the troopers or the Soldotna police or anybody actually looks into it and considers it a hate crime, it's not being reported to the FBI, so it's not included in the FBI statistics, so we don't have any real numbers of what the hate crime rate is in Alaska against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity," she said.