Casper City Council Backs Sexual Orientation Equal Rights Resolution
The Casper City Council gave tentative approval to a draft resolution to support the nondiscrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons during its work session Tuesday.
The local chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (P-FLAG) requested the equal rights resolution, City Manager Carter Napier wrote in a memo to council.
"Historically, LGBT persons have been harassed, rejected, and even murdered for being different," Napier wrote.
"It is important that Casper illustrates that compassion, understanding and unity are values that are upheld and promoted. Our citizens need to feel safe and a community that is welcoming and supportive will encourage all people to stay in Casper and utilize their skills," he wrote.
The draft of the resolution in part says, "The City affirms that its personnel policies protect employees and potential employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity."
Rob Johnston, who with his husband sued the state for marriage equality, cleared up a common objection about such an equal rights resolution.
"We're not asking for special rights," Johnston said.
But Johnston, Ruth Ann Leonard of P-FLAG, and the Rev. Dee Lundberg of the United Church of Christ said the city's current nondiscrimination resolution is exclusive in that it does not include sexual orientation.
Leonard told council members several other municipalities have passed similar resolutions, and they would like one modeled after the one approved in Gillette last year.
Lundberg said she and the others aren't looking for an ordinance with its legal effects, but rather a resolution, or statement, about what the community stands for.
Without those policies, people will continue to have a negative perceptions about Wyoming, she said.
Lundberg later referenced the national and international notoriety Wyoming and Casper received after the October 1998 murder of Casper native and gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard. "We may be spend the rest of our lives running from the Matthew Shepard reputation."
Many people know of those who have been the target of discrimination and those who decided not to move to Wyoming because of that reputation, she said.
Part of the bottom line, they said, is the bottom line -- namely business and jobs.
People considering moving themselves, their families and their businesses are increasingly looking at whether cities have such nondiscrimination policies, Lundberg said.
Council member Charlie Powell said Casper will never know how many people -- with their talents and businesses -- thought of moving here but didn't because of their perception of the state as anti-gay.
Powell didn't regard the idea so much as about nondiscrimination, but rather as promoting Casper as a city that welcomes people The the resolution could help change that, he said. "I think it's long overdue."
Jesse Morgan, who is black, and Ray Pacheco, who is Hispanic, said they've experienced discrimination themselves and want a resolution and attitude to resist that.
"My hope is that we can rise above that," Pacheco said.
Bob Hopkins said Casper was recognized in a good way when Guy Padgett was among the few cities in the nation that had an openly gay mayor.
Mayor Kenyne Humphrey said she wants to revisit the matter at a future work session to refine the language of the resolution.
Later, Lundberg said she, Leonard and Johnston wanted a resolution instead of the legal requirements of an ordinance to gain community support. "It's better to have a win in our column."
People may oppose homosexuality, but they won't oppose nondiscrimination, she said.
Council's reaction pleasantly surprised her, Lundberg added. "They get it; we've got good people."