Laramie passes measure to protect gays, lesbians

May 13, 2015, 8:54 PM
n FILE – This Sept. 26, 2008 file photo shows a bench in front of the University of Wyoming A...
FILE - This Sept. 26, 2008 file photo shows a bench in front of the University of Wyoming Arts & Sciences building with a memorial plaque in honor of the late Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyo. The Laramie City Council considers the state's first anti-discrimination ordinance on Wednesday, May 13, 2015 that would ban employers as well as public facilities such as restaurants from discriminating against people on the basis of sexual orientation/identity. The Matthew Shepard Foundation, based in Denver, applauds the move, noting that much has changed since the UW undergrad was killed in Laramie in 1998. (AP Photo/Laramie Boomerang, Andy Carpenean, File)n
(AP Photo/Laramie Boomerang, Andy Carpenean, File)

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — The Laramie City Council on Wednesday approved a local anti-discrimination ordinance in the college town where Matthew Shepard’s death triggered nationwide sympathy and brought a re-examination of attitudes toward gays 17 years ago.

The council voted 7-2 in favor of the measure that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment and access to public facilities such as restaurants.

Local organizers focused their efforts on Laramie after the Legislature repeatedly rejected anti-discrimination bills, most recently early this year. The Laramie Nondiscrimination Task Force presented a draft ordinance to the City Council last summer.

Jeran Artery, head of the group Wyoming Equality which has lobbied for the anti-discrimination measures at the state Legislature, said he was thrilled with the council vote.

“What a day for Wyoming, and what a day for the city that became synonymous with Matthew Shepard’s murder to now step up and do this right thing,” Artery said. “And I would really encourage other communities across the state to follow Laramie’s lead.”

Shepard, a gay university student, was murdered in Laramie in 1998, and his death became a rallying point in the gay rights movement. Congress has passed hate crimes legislation bearing his name.

Judy Shepard, Matt Shepard’s mother, is active in a Denver-based foundation that bears her son’s name and focuses on equality issues.

“I’m thrilled that Laramie’s doing it, at the same time sort of saddened that the state of Wyoming can’t see fit to do that as well,” Shepard told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday before the council vote from Washington, D.C. “Maybe the rest of Wyoming will understand this is about fellow human beings and not something that’s other than what they are.”

Laramie Mayor Dave Paulekas spoke in favor of the amendment.

“To me, this is about treating people fairly, it’s about treating people the way I would want to be treated, the way we all expect to be treated,” Paulekas said before the vote. “And it’s nothing more than that, in my mind.”

Paulekas said that if Laramie wants to see economic development, high-tech firms are going to look at how the city treats its citizens.

Councilors Joe Vitale and Bryan Shuster cast the only no-votes against the ordinance. Both said they were concerned that the ordinance would trample on city residents’ religious freedoms.

“Enactment of this ordinance will result in discrimination complaints filed against business owners who are simply trying to run their business consistent with their faith,” Vitale said. The council rejected his suggestion that it postpone action on the matter until next year to give the U.S. Supreme Court and the Wyoming Legislature more time to act on the issue.

Judy Shepard said some people are still under the misconception that what happened to her son is typical of what happens in Wyoming.

“But I feel like if Wyoming had done more to open the door to acceptance, that kind of reputation would have disappeared very quickly,” said Shepard, herself a Wyoming resident. “Instead of taking advantage of the moment, they just sort of turned around and ran.”

Gov. Matt Mead last year went to court to defend Wyoming’s gay marriage ban before federal court rulings from other states blocked the state from further action.

And a handful of Wyoming lawmakers this spring filed a brief urging the nation’s highest court to reject same-sex marriage on the grounds that forcing states to accept it would violate other citizens’ free-speech rights.

Rep. Kendell Kroeker, R-Evansville, voted against the anti-discrimination bill this year and was among those who endorsed the U.S. Supreme Court brief.

“I suppose it’s their right as a city,” Kroeker said of Laramie’s proposal. But he noted such measures grant special privileges to one group over another — an idea he doesn’t support.

Asked about his thoughts on such an ordinance passing in the city where Shepard was killed, Kroeker said: “The Matt Shepard case was a tragedy, but I don’t see how an anti-discrimination ordinance would have stopped somebody from committing that heinous crime.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

United States News

The National Labor Relations Board's top prosecutor, Jennifer Abruzzo, poses for a portrait at Nati...
Associated Press

NLRB’s top prosecutor seeks big changes, faces uphill battle

As workers at major companies increasingly move to unionize, the political environment for labor couldn’t be more ripe. Perhaps nowhere is that more accurate than at the National Labor Relations Board, the agency that enforces the country’s labor laws and oversees union elections. In the past year, the Biden-appointed top prosecutor Jennifer Abruzzo has been […]
8 hours ago
Associated Press

Off-duty officer charged with assault at abortion protest

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island police officer accused of punching a woman at an abortion protest while he was off-duty has now been charged in connection with Friday’s demonstration at the State House. In a Saturday evening news release, state police said Providence patrolman Jeann Lugo, 35, was charged with simple assault and […]
8 hours ago
FILE - Wallace Reid purchases fuel for the vehicle he drives to make a living using ride-share apps...
Associated Press

Greedflation: Is price-gouging helping fuel high inflation?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Furious about surging prices at the gasoline station and the supermarket, many consumers feel they know just where to cast blame: On greedy companies that relentlessly jack up prices and pocket the profits. Responding to that sentiment, the Democratic-led House of Representatives last month passed on a party-line vote — most Democrats […]
8 hours ago
FILE - Wallace Reid purchases fuel for the vehicle he drives to make a living using ride-share apps...
Associated Press

Did corporate greed fuel inflation? It’s not biggest culprit

WASHINGTON (AP) — Furious about surging prices at the gasoline station and the supermarket, many consumers feel they know just where to cast blame: On greedy companies that relentlessly jack up prices and pocket the profits. Responding to that sentiment, the Democratic-led House of Representatives last month passed on a party-line vote — most Democrats […]
8 hours ago
Gabby Giffords, center, the subject of the documentary film "Gabby Giffords Won't Back Down," poses...
Associated Press

Giffords documentary comes as gun debates stay center stage

In the two years documentary filmmakers shadowed former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, the most jarring moment for them was in the kitchen of her Tucson, Arizona, home. As cameras were rolling, she and her husband, Sen. Mark Kelly, nonchalantly opened the freezer. Kelly grabbed a plastic container and revealed it holds the piece of Giffords’ skull […]
8 hours ago
Republican candidate for Illinois governor Richard Irvin speaks with employees during a tour of HM ...
Associated Press

Illinois governor’s race is also battle among billionaires

WAUCONDA, Ill. (AP) — The race to be Illinois’ next governor is also a battle among billionaires, including two whose names won’t appear on Tuesday’s primary ballot. Republican candidates Darren Bailey, who as a state lawmaker fought pandemic measures such as mask mandates, and former prosecutor Richard Irvin, the first Black mayor of Chicago’s largest […]
8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
...
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
...
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
Laramie passes measure to protect gays, lesbians