A Wyoming bill that would have added gender identity and sexual orientation to a workplace protections law died Monday night in the Wyoming House.
The “Enhancing Quality Employment Law” sponsored by Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Laramie County, House Bill 230 would have updated language in the state’s employment laws to offer recourse for employees and job applicants to lodge complaints with the state if they were discriminated against for their gender identity or sexual orientation.
The law already includes protections for one’s political affiliation, race, color, sex, religious beliefs or age.
The bill narrowly passed out of committee last week after intense testimony where LGBTQ community members shared stories of their own experiences living in Wyoming. They also said LGBT people are leaving Wyoming because of the state’s attitudes against them.
Religious groups were exempted from the law, but that was not enough to appeal to conservative and Christian opponents of the bill.
Monday was the last day that the Wyoming House would hear a first reading of a bill, and HB230 was not among those heard. Republican leaders said that the bill, a priority of the Democratic party in part because this year is the 20th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s murder, was simply not important enough to prioritize.
“As a citizen legislature, we have a finite amount of time during the legislative session to consider bills,” House Majority Floor Leader Eric Barlow said in a joint statement. “As Majority Floor Leaders, we work hard to ensure every lawmaker has the chance to bring to light the issues they feel are important while prioritizing bills reflective of the shared priorities of lawmakers. This includes financial stability for our General Fund and school obligations, efficient government operations, fortifying economic opportunities with education for our children and job training for our workforce, healthcare options that improve access and affordability and, finally, clearing the way for our core industries to thrive.”
A letter from the Wyoming Republican Party said that their second-highest priority this session was “against crafting new protections for people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Wyoming remains among the minority of states without an LGBT-specific nondiscrimination law.
Wyoming Capitol photo by Alan Levine