Poll: Wyoming Government Nondiscrimination Act
One of the more controversial bills to come before Wyoming lawmakers this session is the Government Nondiscrimination Act, also known as House Bill 135. The bill includes the following provision:
a) "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the government of this state shall not take any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that the person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that:
(i) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one (1) man and one (1) woman;
(ii) That “man” and “woman” mean an individual’s biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at the time of birth.”
The bill goes on to say that people cannot be “discriminated against” for holding those beliefs.
It specifically prohibits actions such as withholding government benefits or licensing, government contracts, imposing tax penalties and a range of other actions. The bill includes corporations and business partnerships as being covered by the act.
Hospitals and nursing homes are not covered however.
Supporters of the bill, such as co-sponsor Rep. Cheri Steinmetz (R-Goshen County) say the bill is needed to protect the freedom of conscience of people who object to same-sex marriage on religious or moral grounds. She says those who object to same sex marriage are increasingly being targeted for government penalties simply for holding that opinion.
Steinmetz says the bill would only apply to private businesses or individuals, and would be most likely to come into play in situations such as a bakery that may not want to bake a cake for a same sex wedding. Steinmetz says even in those cases, the business would likely refer the customer to another business willing to perform the service.
Steinmetz says she believes the bill to be constitutional and essential to protecting religious freedom in Wyoming.
But Sara Burlingame of Wyoming Equality takes a very different view. She says, for starters, the bill is clearly unconstitutional and would immediately embroil the state in an expensive court fight. She says it would also hurt the economy by discouraging companies from locating in a state that officially discriminates against the LGBT community.
Burlingame also disputes Steinmetz's assertion that the law would not apply to public officials who may have an objection to same sex marriage, possibly including a county clerk, for example.
Burlingame and other opponents of the measure say the name is misleading and the bill, rather than promoting non-discrimination, in fact does just the opposite and allows open discrimination against the LGBT community.
What do you think?