BREAKING: Discriminatory Bill Withdrawn From Wyo. House

By on January 26, 2017

Illustration by Cait Lee

Jackson Hole, WY — A “religious freedom” bill that would have stripped LGBTQ citizens of their rights in the “Equality State” was withdrawn today in the House of Representatives by sponsors, Reps. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle; Susan Wilson, R-Laramie; and Nathan Winters, R-Thermopolis.

The Government Anti-Discrimination Act was a misleading title for a bill that wouldn’t protect LGBTQ people, but instead those who discriminate against them. People like Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who refused to issue a marriage license for a same-sex couple.

In a recent press release, the nonprofit advocacy group Better Wyoming blasted the bill, offering a grim scenario if the proposed legislation were to pass:

“‘Religious freedom’ bills like HB-135 provide special protection to employees of state and local governments whose religious beliefs allegedly make them so queasy around gay and transgendered people that their anti-LGBT actions just can’t be considered discriminatory,” the release stated. “So, say a firefighter refuses to help a same-sex couple, but the fire chief tells him to do his job … that firefighter, under HB-135, can sue the fire department for making him do something against his religious and moral convictions.”

Steinmetz, the bill’s primary sponsor, defended the contentious bill in a prepared statement today, as reported in the Casper Star Tribune. “The intention of this bill has always been to hold Wyoming to the highest standard in terms of equal protection under the law. The religious freedoms guaranteed to each and every one of us are the bedrock on which our Constitution is founded. When these unalienable rights are threatened, so too is every other constitutional right we enjoy.”

But lawmakers apparently failed to convince enough people of the bill’s merit. Instead, a flurry of intense opposition from folks across the state ensued, said Sabrina King, policy director for the Wyoming ACLU. King says that resistance incited today’s decision.

“People were upset, and vocal … you saw that from all corners—not only the LGBTQ community but also faith leaders, business owners and many organizations,” King told PJH. “I think it is really telling and hopefully a lesson learned for lawmakers.”

While the “Equality State” just inched a little closer to reclaiming its title, King says human rights advocates should remain vigilant.

“Even liberties we do have are coming under attack right now,” she explained. “We are seeing this in immigrant communities and Muslim communities … we are going to keep organizing and reaching across intersections of people so these rights are not taken away with the stroke of a pen.”

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About Robyn Vincent

Robyn is the editor of Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine and former editor of Planet Jackson Hole. When she's not sweating deadlines, she likes to travel the world with her notebook and camera in hand. Follow her on Twitter @TheNomadicHeart

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