The Wyoming Senate overwhelmingly passed a nondiscrimination bill that protects LGBT people Tuesday and sent the bill to the House.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, would add prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity to a range of state laws that now prohibit discrimination based on other factors including race, age, disability and political affiliation. It passed with a vote of 24–6. In 2013, the bill never reached the floor of either house after passing through committee.
The bill has exemptions for religious organizations.
Supporters of the bill say some gay and transgender Wyomingites have experienced discrimination, including being fired or physically assaulted.
Bill opponent Sen. Curt Meier, R-LaGrange, said on the Senate floor that he regarded the bill as a problem looking for a solution when one already exists in federal anti-discrimination laws. He also introduced an amendment that would have provided an additional exemption for businesses with fewer than 15 employees. That amendment failed.
“This is a feel-good bill, ‘I’m OK, you’re OK,’” Meier said.
The bill received support across party lines. Former Senate president Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, said, “Times have changed. It’s 2015. We need to step up and we need to pass this bill.”
Bill supporters praised the senators and wiped tears of happiness from their eyes after the vote.
“These are smart men,” said Jeran Artery, chairman of Wyoming Equality. “These are businessmen, and they get it.”
The bill now awaits approval in Wyoming’s House of Representatives.