Lawmakers Vote To Water Down Their Anti-Discrimination And Harassment Policy

Dec 6, 2018

Credit Wyoming Legislature

The Wyoming Legislature's Management Council has voted to change and weaken its anti-discrimination and harassment policy.

The policy was adopted by the council during the past legislative session and was intended to provide protections to a number of groups and clarify that harassment and discrimination of those groups was against legislative policy.

But some conservative legislators and organizations were upset that people were also protected based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Thermopolis Representative Nathan Winters said the policy went too far and infringed on free speech. Winters said the idea is not to be intolerant, but people should have the right to express their views on things they don't agree with.

"Disagreement sure, but intolerance no," said Winters. "We all need to advocate for a society in which disagreement with civility and love is a natural part of civil discourse."

Laramie Senator Chris Rothfuss said he wasn't so sure.

"This is a non-discrimination and harassment policy and we are reviewing it at the request of those who are really interested in maintaining their right to discriminate. That is just striking," said Rothfuss.

Two openly gay members of the Wyoming House of Representatives said that they have been victims of intolerance as legislators. Cheyenne's Dan Zwonitzer and Laramie's Cathy Connolly said they both strongly supported the existing policy. Connolly encountered a verbal attack from a conservative group while presenting a piece of legislation at a meeting in Sundance last year. She said it taught her that the policy was needed.

"We've seen what's gone on in the state in other places and we don't want that to happen here."

The management council voted 7-6 to adopt a new policy that removes protections for all groups and said civil discussion is okay as long as it doesn't violate state or federal laws. Casper Senator Drew Perkins said the change better reflects what is in the Wyoming Constitution.