Wyoming Senate has rejected a bill that would have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The standing vote was 13 for the bill and 17 opposed, with opponents claiming Senate File 131 would create a ‘protected class’ of employees and would result in lawsuits, as well as impinging on ‘religious freedom’.
The bill had already been amended to exempt religious organizations, but some senators feared passing the bill would have ‘unintended consequences’, Trib.com reports.
Democrat Senator Chris Rothfuss said he was disappointed in the vote, but expected it to come back later and pass.
‘Obviously, the country’s moving that direction,’ he said. ‘It’s a necessary step to get it out there and get it discussed by the full body [of both houses], and I’m hopeful in the future we’ll be able to get this group moved in that direction.’
He said, in Wyoming, any boss can look an employee in the eye and tell them they are fired for being gay.
In the debate, Republican Charles Scott said the bill might have the effect of convincing employers not to hire gay people in the first place in fear of having to deal with a lawsuit.
Republican Dan Dockstader also claimed the bill criminalizes employers who stick to their ‘moral convictions’.
But another Republican, Curt Meier, said he had hired people who are openly gay and there should be a law protecting them from discrimination.
‘I’m a good old conservative boy,’ he said. ‘I don’t discriminate against people.’
Rothfuss, who was creator of the bill, said the Department of Workplace Services receives many complaints about discrimination about gay people.
He said: ‘There response is “You have no protection”. They have harrowing stories.’
While the bill would affect some employers, Rothfuss said ‘that is the point’.
‘We’re trying to get rid of discrimination,’ he said.
On 28 January, a Wyoming House committee defeated a same-sex marriage bill 5-4 but approved a domestic partnership bill 7-2.
Democrat Cathy Connolly, the state’s only openly gay official, said: ‘We are better individually and collectively when our loved ones are protected.’