Photo by Stavrialena Gontzou on Unsplash

It’s Pride Month — that should mean purposeful change in Wyoming

As another Pride Month rolls around and LGBTQ+ individuals and allies across the state celebrate, will Wyoming let another year elapse without passing legislation to protect or affirm LGBTQ+ rights?

It’s no secret Wyoming lags in LGBTQ+ rights — the Human Rights Campaign has labeled the state as “high priority to achieve basic equality,” which is the worst rating by the LGBTQ+ rights organization. In fact, legislation that was presented in early 2019 to protect LGBTQ+ workers from being fired on the grounds of their sexual orientation was steamrolled when Speaker of the House Eric Barlow refused to bring the bill to the floor during session.

Wyoming Democrats and Wyoming Equality lobbied for the passage of HB 230 to protect LGBTQ+ worker rights, but the Speaker of the House failed to bring it to the floor.

The demand for LGBTQ+ protections is not a campaign to impose beliefs on others. Rather, it’s an affirmation that religious and cultural beliefs do not superimpose human rights. Yet, constituents continue to place people in positions of power — like Vicki Kissack of the Campbell County GOP and Gillette-based State Representative Scott Clem — who defame the LGBTQ+ community and those who fight for their rights.

In a since-deleted Facebook post, Vicki Kissack compared the LGBTQ+ community to Nazis. Image courtesy of the Casper Star Tribune.

As a gay man myself, it’s frustrating to see my home state sleep on protections for and discriminate against some of its own. Full discloser — I haven’t lived in Wyoming for nearly four years, but, being born and raised in the state, I still consider myself a faithful and proud Wyomingite. I want to make the state better and a more accepting place for everyone.

It offers hope that some leaders have taken steps to learn about LGBTQ+ individuals and have worked to challenge their internal biases. Take, for example, former Senator Mike Enzi — after making offensive comments about the gender expression of a Wyoming man, Sissy, Enzi sat down with him and had an open dialogue in which they came to a mutual respect. Unfortunately, that represents the minority of Wyoming’s leaders and does not equal legal protections or affirmation of rights.

That’s why, this Pride Month, legislators and leaders should work toward leveling the playing field for those who identify as LGBTQ+ by passing legislation that makes it illegal to discriminate against sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, education, adoption, and even insurance. Further, state law must grant the same permissions to same-sex couples as straight couples.

As many celebrate Pride Month and the LGBTQ+ people in our lives, let us not forget the work we still must complete.

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