Laramie made history last night when the city council passed Wyoming’s first broad ordinance banning discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
The ordinance, which passed by a vote of 7-2, covers public or private employment, housing, and public accommodations like bars or restaurants. The town of Jackson also has an LGBT anti discrimination ordinance on the books, but it only covers public employees.
Public testimony was overwhelmingly in favor of the measure. Transgender Laramie High School student Rihanna Kelver said she generally she feels comfortable being herself in Laramie, but she has worried about losing her job.
“To be able to lose it based on one little thing was quite scary,” she said. “I feel a lot of relief now that the vote has passed.”
Councilmen Joe Vitale and Bryan Shuster were the only members to vote against the ordinance, both citing fears that it could limit religious freedom. But there was some support on religious grounds as well: Laramie man Mike Sumner spoke during public comment. “As a Christian I do sin when I fail to follow the loving and compassionate example of Jesus Christ,” he said. “And I believe that a vote against this ordinance is the same as throwing the first stone.”
The passing of this ordinance comes after a similar statewide measure was narrowly defeated in the Legislature. Laramie State Representative and UW Professor Cathy Connolly pushed for the state law.
“You know we have a vision, both at the University and in the Community, to get and retain the best and the brightest,” she said after the vote. “I think this ordinance will make a difference. And I plan on taking the leadership of Laramie to the legislature.”
The ordinance should go into effect in Laramie the next few weeks.