BREAKING: Discriminatory Bill Withdrawn From Wyo. House

By on January 26, 2017

(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WY – A “religious freedom” bill that would have stripped LGBTQ citizens of their rights in the “Equality State” was withdrawn today in the House of Representatives by sponsors, Reps.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. That includes 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 progressive 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 said. “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 today in a prepared statement citing religious freedom that is “the bedrock on which our Constitution is founded.” He said the bill’s intent was to grant people equal protection under the law. “When these unalienable rights are threatened, so too is every other constitutional right we enjoy.”

But lawmakers failed to convince enough people of the bill’s merit. Instead, a flurry of intense opposition from Wyomingites across the state ensued, said Sabrina King, policy director for the Wyoming ACLU. King says that resistance spurred 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 said human rights advocates should remain vigilant. People’s civil liberties, she said, are “under attack.”

“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.”

About Robyn Vincent

Robyn is the editor of Planet Jackson Hole and Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine. 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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