Tammie Willis speaks at the LGTBQ Town Hall at the Soldotna Public Library in Soldotna on Jan. 4. (Brian Mazurek | Peninsula Clarion)

Tammie Willis speaks at the LGTBQ Town Hall at the Soldotna Public Library in Soldotna on Jan. 4. (Brian Mazurek | Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai to vote on resolution in support of hate crime legislation

A state bill looking to expand hate crime protections to include crimes motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity may see support from the city of Kenai.

At its Wednesday meeting, the Kenai City Council was set to hold a public hearing and vote on a resolution, sponsored by council member Tim Navarre and vice mayor Bob Molloy, supporting state House Bill 198. The bill would add “sexual orientation and gender identity” to the list of aggravating factors considered at sentencing.

The resolution says Kenai is a “diverse community with residents who fall along the full range of sexual orientation and gender identity spectrums,” and cites a series of “escalating incidents of harassment and assault” on the central peninsula that led to the proposed legislation.

The Soldotna City Council passed a similar resolution at its Jan. 22 meeting.

State statute 12.55.155(c)(22) currently defines an aggravating factor for hate crimes as “the defendant 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,” but does not include sexual orientation or gender identity as an aggravating factor for sentencing of a person convicted of the crime, the resolution said.

Tammie Willis, a local advocate for the LGBTQ community and Soldotna Pride in the Park organizer, experienced several instances of harassment earlier this winter. Her experience led to a Jan. 4 town hall meeting focused on public safety and addressed threats LGBTQ people face in the area, which brought out an audience of more than 100 people.

After the town hall, Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, introduced HB 198.

Josephson’s bill would amend statute to expand hate protections to include sexual orientation or gender identity.

“The fundamental civil and human rights of all individuals should be upheld regardless of a person’s race, sex, color, creed, disability, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity,” the resolution said. “Criminal offenses motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity have no place in our community.”

Copies of the Kenai City Council resolution, if passed, will be sent to Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai/Soldotna, Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, and Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Kenai/Soldotna.

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