SHERIDAN — The current non-discrimination policy in the city of Sheridan’s employee handbook does not specify non-discrimination against employees or job applicants on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Wyoming Equality Affiliate Group in Sheridan wants to change that with a resolution.
Brad Mohrmann, filling in for Sheridan representative Dawn Sopron for the Wyoming Equality Affiliate Group, introduced the proposed resolution to Sheridan City Council members during a study session Monday. Mohrmann discussed the Wyoming Legislature’s House Bill 244, which would have created a crime of public indecency for using a public bathroom or changing facility designated for the opposite sex. The bill was introduced to the Wyoming Legislature in the most recent session by Rep. Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan.
“That bill didn’t see the light of day, but that was introduced,” Mohrmann said.
He also referred to U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi’s comment in April of this year. Enzi said, “I know a guy who wears a tutu and goes to bars on Friday night and is always surprised that he gets in fights. Well, he kind of asks for it. That’s the way that he winds up with that kind of problem.”
“The comment’s out there and it sends a pretty strong message when you say ‘he kind of asks for it,’” Mohrmann said.
Sheridan city administrator Mark Collins said Laramie is the only municipality in the state that has an ordinance addressing anti-discrimination policies, while other entities around the state passed resolutions. Those municipalities included Cheyenne, Jackson, Gillette and Douglas.
“We’re not asking for an ordinance here; there’s no need for an ordinance here,” Mohrmann said. “We just want to state the values that all are welcome in Sheridan, including LGBT citizens and our residents. So it is truly a statement of values.”
A resolution requires just one reading and does not create a new law for the city of Sheridan, only a new policy.
Mohrmann urged council to make Sheridan an example for the rest of the state.
“We ask for you to consider adopting this non-discrimination resolution, making Sheridan advance what we say is the Equality State,” Mohrmann said. “Let’s be the Equality State; let’s make Sheridan advance that cause.”
Mayor Roger Miller continued to ask why singling out the LGBT community in the city’s policy would be better than the current language that states that the city “does not discriminate against…any other status or condition protected by applicable state laws, except when a bona fide occupational qualification applies.”
“I think it’s very important that we don’t wait and let someone else define who we are. We should define who we are as a community and that we accept all citizens, no matter who they are,” Mohrmann said. “The reason why we wanted to address the LGBT community specifically because of some of those incidents earlier this year.”
The language on the current city policy reflects regulations dating back to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
“I think a resolution makes more of a statement, is that the thought process?” Councilor Kristin Kelly asked Mohrmann. “It’s more of a showing, not just in the handbook, but this is a community that would welcome everyone.”
Mohrmann agreed, saying the resolution moves beyond just having a policy in place for different employers.
“It’s another thing to say as a community, a broader community, that these are all about, that we tolerate every citizen,” Mohrmann said.
Miller said council would contact the group later to have further discussions on the proposed resolution.