SHERIDAN — “What part of all does not include all?”
Councilor Alex Lee’s question encapsulated Mayor Roger Miller’s and council members’ stance on the words included in the nondiscrimination resolution passed unanimously at Monday’s city council meeting.
After nearly two hours of public comment and council discussion regarding the restructured nondiscrimination resolution, council approved the document that omitted original LGBT language and replaced sexual orientation and gender identity with “all.”
Lee said he agrees that there is a problem in this community, but it’s generational and it will take everyone to move forward.
The new resolution recognizes “the right of all citizens in Sheridan to live free of discrimination.” It was passed unanimously by council.
“I feel that this resolution is a step in the right direction and it is a very strong statement when we say, ‘we affirm the right of all citizens in Sheridan to live free from discrimination,’” Miller said.
Twenty-seven members of the community shared their opinions on the matter.
Of those, five members spoke in favor of the change to omit LGBT, sexual orientation and gender identity language. They said the original resolution would have led the city onto a slippery slope where the people looking to pass the resolution would continue to ask for more.
The 22 speaking for the original resolution shared personal injustices against themselves or loved ones, asking for the “watered-down” version to be dropped and for the original resolution to be approved.
Two members of the junior council stayed beyond the regular dismissal time. Sheridan High School junior Patrick Kuehl said he had no prior knowledge of the issue before coming to Monday’s council meeting and had no intention of speaking as he stepped up to the podium.
“Seeing this resolution, I feel that this is a fantastic resolution, but saying that it is in any way similar to the original resolution is ludicrous,” Kuehl said. “This resolution should and could be passed in the future, but saying that it’s a replacement for the original resolution is awful.”
Kuehl said that despite being a heterosexual, even he has experienced discrimination from people who think he is gay.
“Just from that standpoint, I think that’s pretty awful,” Kuehl said. “I think injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.”
The majority of members speaking on Monday night also shared their thoughts with the mayor and council through email.
During the first meeting at which citizens spoke out about the initially proposed resolution, council listened to 23 concerned citizens. Out of those 23, 14 spoke against passing the resolution, seven spoke in favor and two expressed no opinion either way.
In email correspondence between council and citizens, those against the resolution were more numerous, with 32 asking to remove the LGBT language and 23 speaking in support of the original resolution. Those speaking against the resolution cited religious beliefs, others said they feared what would come next. Some even promised to help campaign against any council members who voted in favor of the resolution with LGBT language included. Those who spoke in favor of the resolution spoke of discrimination that already occurs, pointed out that equality isn’t a zero-sum game and noted that the lack of acceptance is part of why youth leave the state.
Monday’s meeting had 27 citizens speak, with five in support of the new resolution without LGBT, sexual orientation and gender identity language included.
In emails exchanged with the city council in July, Miller said he didn’t see the need to add the LGBT, sexual orientation and gender identity language to the resolution because issues on the matter are still being addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court and Wyoming Supreme Court.
“Until the federal and or state governments make a decision on these topics, I do not believe we have any legal obligation or authority to act on this suggested resolution,” Miller said of the proposed resolution that included the LGBT language.
Councilor Rich Bridger echoed the mayor’s sentiments in the email exchange.