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Trans man blocked from seat on Alaska human rights commission

Joseph McCormick May 17, 2017

A trans man has been blocked from a seat on the Alaska human rights commission by the state’s legislature.

Drew Phoenix, a trans man, was blocked from a seat on the commission following a vote in the legislature on the nominations by Governor Bill Walker.

Out of all the nominees for boards, commissions and administration posts, Phoenix was the only one to be voted down.

Drew Phoenix

Those opposed to Phoenix’s nomination said he was too political for the post.

According to Senator John Coghill, a Republican, he has no problem with Phoenix being an advocate for trans rights “until you get on that commission and then what you want to do is you want to look at protecting all rights.”

Phoenix said he was “incredibly upset and disheartened” by the vote, when interviewed by NBC.

“I just find it so ironic that somebody like myself, with so much years’ experience personally and professional working on behalf of human rights, that they would not confirm me to the commission on human rights,” he said.

But some did support the nomination.

Democratic Senator Bill Wielechowski, asked whether the state wanted to appoint people who have first-hand experience of discrimination, in order to end it.

Phoenix said he was asked by a Senate committee in the state whether he had worked as an advocate for LGBT rights.

He said he was asked by the committee whether he wanted to use the position on the commission to further that cause.

In response, Phoenix says that he said he would do so if the commission was aiming for that.

One concern, Phoenix says, came from a conservative group who suggested his appointment to the commission would be a threat to religious freedom.

This is despite Phoenix being an ordained Christian minister.

Despite being voted down, Phoenix thanked Governor Walker for “having faith in my qualifications.”

“I’m so sad I won’t be able to use my expertise and experience to advance the work of the commission,” Phoenix said.

Earlier this year, two openly gay officials were elected in Anchorage, Alaska.

The two progressive candidates, Felix Rivera and Christopher Constant, both separately won races for spots on Anchorage Assembly – becoming the only openly LGBT elected officials in Alaska.

More: Alaska, human rights commission, Trans, Transgender, US

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