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Earlier this month, I was home sick, flipping through that week’s copy of the anchorage press. In what I initially assumed was a fever dream, I landed on a page with a bearded man, decked out in camo, smiling over a fresh caught fish. It was an article entitled “falsehoods and facts about proposition 1.” it was written by jim minnery – alaska’s largest snake oil salesman and resident bigot.

I flashed back to june 16, 2009. I was sitting in a cramped anchorage assembly chambers so full of people they had to open up the neighboring wilda marston theater for the overflow. That quickly filled too. It was the second day of public hearings on ordinance 64; the latest attempt to try and add legal anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community.

The room was sweltering. It was easy to tell who was there to support the measure and who wasn’t.Allison mendel

proponents wore blue. Opponents countered by wearing red. I saw an average looking man with a soul patch that looked like it fell off a muppet in a red hawaiian shirt that looked like it threw up on itself. He approached the podium and and introduced himself: jim minnery, president of the alaska family council. I’d never heard of him.

“let me first say that I agree that gays and lesbians should have access to the basic rights of housing, jobs, a loan, and education. They do currently possess those rights,” he said in his best mr. Rogers voice. “the real question before you is this: should christians and others in the faith community with traditional views on sexuality be made to affirm and endorse a view that is counter to their belief system? Should they be marginalized and forced into the closet for that viewpoint?”

allison mendel

That summer, known colloquially as the summer of hate, longtime anti-gay leader jerry prevo was seen as the biggest opponent, giving fire and brimstone sermons about perverts and degenerate lifestyles. From the pulpit, he begged his flock to barnstorm the meetings. Rumors swirled (because they were true) that he coordinated with minnery to bus in residents from the mat-su valley to illegally testify. But prevo was also getting tired, and so were other faith leaders and parishioners who recognized – even then – that the hellfire approach was losing its appeal. But minnery was something new. He flashed toothy grins and applied a friendly neighborhood-bigot-approach. We love the gays! We just don’t want them to get the same rights as us!

All the while, however, he was stoking the same fear that earned prevo his reputation.Experienced discrimination before AO64 was even introduced, minnery set up a website called “SOS anchorage,” designed to freak people out with headlines like: “small business owners could be fined thousands of dollars if this ordinance passes!” “the salvation army could be denied funding!” “’sexual orientation’ is a dangerous legal term to add to our discrimination laws!” “your child’s second grade teacher could be a man one day and show up as a woman the next!” and “any man can put on a dress and walk into the ladies’ restroom!”

Three years later, with more conservative assembly and the veto pen still in play, members of the community decided to try at the ballot box with proposition 5. Immediately, minnery started the “protect your rights” opposition. He used it to turn prominent LGBTQ people as props; twisting their words to make them sound like they opposed prop 5.Free speech he claimed in a march, 2012 KTUU interview that attorney allison mendel proved the law was unnecessary, because she claimed in her testimony during AO64 that she had never experienced discrimination. “I thought, man, if there’s anybody that’s going to give a compelling legal argument for, in that case it was AO64, it would be allison mendel,” he said.

Mendel testified that she had witnessed others being discriminated against and finished her testimony with this line: “I do not want to have to hide or lie in order to have these [right]. I want to be able to put my wedding picture on my desk just like you do, without risking being fired because of it.”

He used anchorage daily news columnist julia O’malley, too. In one of her columns, she mentioned that she had not personally experienced discrimination.Allison mendel minnery opined on the campaign website, “her column basically said it doesn’t matter – she’s been openly gay since she was 17 in anchorage.” O’malley objected and minnery took it down. He still references it.

Minnery also came under fire for dishonest, gross campaign ads featuring a cartoon business owner and a transvestite. In one, the narrator says, “carol runs a daycare center in anchorage. But if proposition 5 passes, it will be illegal for carol to refuse a job to a transvestite who wants to work with toddlers. If he fires him, she risks losing customers. And if she refuses, she can be fired or imprisoned.” there was no threat of imprisonment in any of the anti-discrimination proposals, and transvestites are not recognized as a protected class. The pro-prop 5 camp complained, but minnery stuck with the ads.Free speech “he called the ads effective and said calls for their removal are helping him raise money because people are offended at the effort to squelch free speech,” alex demarban wrote in the ADN at the time. (the videos are still online.)

On election day that year, minnery sent out a blast email, which read in part, “did you know that people can register and vote at the same location and it doesn’t even have to be at their precinct location?” anchorage does not have same-day voter registration. The following day, in an email announcing prop 5 failed, he blamed the clerk’s office.

There is a litany of offenses. Now, anchorage prepares to vote on prop 1 – an initiative sponsored by jim’s wife, kim minnery. Better known as a bathroom bill, it seeks to roll back protections for transgender residents of the municipality, requiring that access to restrooms, locker rooms, showers, and changing rooms is contingent upon their “’immutable biological condition of being male or female,’ as determined by ‘anatomy and genetics at the time of birth.’” the initiative suggests that one could use their birth certificate as proof, because we all carry that around.Experienced discrimination

Minnery is back, even sharing some of the prop 5 ads on the AFC facebook page last year. He’s still using the same distortions and outright lies confusing gender identity with cross-dressing. And he was afforded the anchorage press as a venue – toothy grin and snake oil in tow.

I write this incomplete chronicle of his transgressions to make a point: the anchorage press is a staple. The weekly print edition has an estimated circulation of 25,000. Every week, despite my presence, pages are filled with insightful, edgy, and often challenging content. Honest content. Not rehashed, tired lies and damaging as they are debunked. We need to do better than set the stage for, and hand a mic to, a known bad actor spinning dishonest, hateful bile.And, before he jumps to his free speech defense, I would remind him that the press is a private company owned by wick communications.Allison mendel they control access to their pages, audience, and brand. Minnery is a toxic asset. They did a big thing badly. I implore them not to make it again.