Wyoming Hub

Wyoming House Rejects Bill Protecting LGBT People from Discrimination in 33-26 Vote

Wyoming's House of Representatives on Tuesday rejected an LGBT non-discrimination bill, the Casper Star-Tribune reports:

Flag_wyomingSenate File 115 failed, with 33 opposing it, 26 supporting it and one lawmaker excused.

The bill would have added “sexual orientation or gender identity” to a handful of state laws that protect people regardless of their race, creed, age, pregnancy, disability and other classes.

The state Senate had passed the bill in early February.

You may recall that a House panel advanced the bill last Friday after ejecting Rep. Harlan Edmonds of Cheyenne. Edmonds had proposed an amendment to the bill that would have made it effective "when Hell freezes over."

Wyoming House Panel Advances LGBT Bill After Ejecting GOP Rep Who Wanted 'Hell Freezes Over' Effective Date

A Wyoming House panel advanced a non-discrimination bill that would protect people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity after ejecting a lawmaker from the meeting, the Star-Tribune reports:

EdmondsThe bill had previously passed the Senate and now moves to the House floor for debate.

Rep. Harlan Edmonds (pictured), R-Cheyenne, was kicked out of the House Labor, Health and Social Services meeting Friday, after proposing an amendment to the bill that would make it effective when “hell freezes over,” instead of the date of July 1.

Committee Chairwoman Rep. Elaine Harvey, R-Lovell, had started the Friday afternoon meeting insisting people would remain civil. She told Edmonds to leave after his comment, which followed a more than two-hour discussion in which he also asked the bill’s supporters why pedophilia wasn’t in the bill.

“We said civility would prevail,” Harvey said.

Edmonds tried to cast a vote while leaving the room but was told it wouldn't count.

Wyoming Senate Passes LGBT Anti-Discrimination Bill

Wyoming's Senate has passed a bill that would ban discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The AP reports:

6a00d8341c730253ef01b7c73d4f9f970b-250wiThe Senate voted 24-to-6 on Tuesday to send the bill to the House.

The bill would add prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity to a range of state laws that now prohibit discrimination based on other factors including race, age, disability and political affiliation.

The bill has exemptions for religious organizations.

Supporters of the bill say some gay and transgender Wyomingites have experienced discrimination, including being fired or physically assaulted.

Bill opponent Sen. Curt Meier, R-LaGrange, said on the Senate floor that he regarded the bill as a problem looking for a solution when one already exists in federal anti-discrimination laws.

La Grange also introduced an amendment that would have provided an additional exemption for businesses with fewer than 15 employees. That amendment failed, as The Casper Star-Tribune reports. Said Meier, “This is a feel-good bill, ‘I’m OK, you’re OK.’”

The bill, which was introduced with bipartisan support back in January, continued to receive support across party lines up until the final vote. Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, commented, “Times have changed. It’s 2015. We need to step up and we need to pass this bill.”

The bill now awaits approval in Wyoming's House of Representatives. 

Bipartisan Coalition of Wyoming State Lawmakers Introduce LGBT Anti-Discrimination Bill

A bill that would prohibit employment discrimination based on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity has been filed in the Wyoming Senate by a bipartisan group of state lawmakers, the Casper Star-Tribune reports:

WyomingIn addition to employees in the private sector, the Wyoming Human Resources Division would have to consider people seeking employment on the basis of their suitability and qualifications and without regard to their sexual orientation or gender identity, the bill states.

Public school teachers would not be discriminated against in compensation on account of sexual orientation or gender identity, according to SF115.

The bill would not apply to employment practices of a religious corporation, association, educational institution or society.

It also would not apply to people who work in ministry. They are currently protected under Wyoming law, and the legislation further articulates the protections, according to a statement by Compete Wyoming, a statewide coalition of business leaders who seek an update in the state’s law to draw more competitive workers to the state.

“This bill is about 9 to 5, 7 to 7 or whatever your workday is,” said Liz Brimmer, of Compete Wyoming. “It is about judging workers on their performance, qualifications and talent.  It’s just bad business to discriminate, and updating this law is important in the Equality State so that workers are productive, taxpaying and safe.”

Senate President Phil Nicholas and House Speaker Kermit Brown, both Republicans from Laramie, have signed on to the bill.

Anti-gay State Rep. Nathan Winters, meanwhile, has introduced a bill that would empower everyone from county clerks to private photographers to discriminate against LGBT citizens if their religious beliefs compel them to. 

Anti-gay Wyoming State Representative Backs Ludicrous 'License to Discriminate' Bill

WintersState Representative and pastor Nathan Winters is doing his part to stand in the way of civil equality in Wyoming by sponsoring The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, proposed legislation that would empower religious conservatives to discriminate against LGBT persons. Speaking to the Casper-Times Tribune Winters described the bill as an effort to keep his constituents free “from oppression of government if they choose to exercise freedom of conscience.”

Like many of the religious freedom bills that conservatives have championed in recent memory, HB 83 is predictably broad in its supposed protections of an increasingly “persecuted” religious minority. The government, HB 83 reads, "shall not burden a person's right to the exercise of religion or moral conscience, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability."

The bill goes on to state that the law "shall be liberally construed in favor of the broad interpretation of the exercise of religious and moral conscience to the maximum extent permitted by this act and the Wyoming constitution and the United States constitution."

In layman’s terms: HB 83 views a devout, religious identity as a free-for-all invitation to disregard any and all civil liberties that should be given the most forgiving preferential treatment in legal cases involving discrimination.

Wyoming Republicans Lash Out At GOP Governor Matt Mead For Not Appealing Gay Marriage Ruling

Back in October, Republican Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead declined to appeal a federal district judge's ruling striking down the state's same-sex marriage ban. 

Mead recognized that since the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Wyoming, had struck down similar bans in other states, and that since the U.S. Supreme Court had declined to review the decision, such an appeal would be futile. As a result, same-sex couples began marrying in Wyoming.

Mead.MattTwo months later, GOP leaders in Goshen County are still smarting over the outcome, and they've decided to lash out at Mead (right). Thirty-three members of the county party's central committee have written a letter to Mead — along with the Senate president and the House speaker — slamming the governor for not appealing the decision.  

The Casper Star-Tribune reports: 

“We hold that Gov. Mead was remiss in not strenuously supporting and defending our platform planks on family and marriage which was manifested in his failure to appeal the same-sex marriage ruling of the U.S. District Court,” the letter states.

“While the opportunity to appeal has regrettably passed, we call on all our Republican office holders and leaders to do all they can from this point forward to support and promote our official party platform planks relating to family and marriage.”

Mead, who was re-elected in November, issued a statement in response to the letter saying he continues to oppose same-sex marriage: 

“But we need to recognize where we are with the courts, and I do recognize that. This group or other groups are free to pursue any recourse they believe is available. Interestingly, when I was fighting the case in Wyoming federal district court and a separate case in Wyoming state court, I did not hear from this group.”

Jeran Artery, chairman of Wyoming Equality, had this to say about the letter: 

“The Goshen County Republicans are on the wrong side of history,” he said. “I wonder, when they issue a statement like that and sign their names to it, what their grandkids and great-grandkids are going to think of this.”

And Gregory T. Angelo, executive director of National Log Cabin Republicans, said: 

“If you are a fiscal conservative, continuing a stringent opposition to civil marriage equality in the wake of these bans getting struck down, one after another, is in many respects doing a disservice to the taxpayers of the state,” he said.

Last month, a poll found that 53 percent of Wyoming residents now support same-sex marriage, compared to only 39 percent who oppose it. 

Meanwhile, LGBT advocates in Wyoming hope the marriage ruling will create new momentum for a bill to outlaw anti-LGBT discrimination.  

Other county GOP groups reportedly intend to send similar letters criticizing Mead for not appealing the ruling, but despite their efforts, it sounds as though Wyoming may be on its way to living up to its nickname: The Equality State. 


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