City leaders embraced an LGBT advocacy group’s proposal for an anti-discrimination resolution Tuesday night, explaining that it could help correct the false perception that Casper does not welcome diversity.
“We have an image problem,” said Councilman Charlie Powell, noting that the city may have lost potential new residents because of Wyoming’s existing reputation.
Councilman Jesse Morgan agreed that the state is viewed as close-minded. On a recent trip to North Carolina, Morgan said people were surprised to learn he was a politician because they didn’t think a black man would get elected in Wyoming.
“We need to change this perception,” he said.
Pointing out that discrimination is “alive and well” in all areas of the world, Vice Mayor Ray Pacheco also said that the resolution would be a step in the right direction.
As an openly gay man, Rob Johnston told City Council on Tuesday that he also had reservations about moving to Casper. He was worried about potential discrimination, but Johnston said the community largely accepted him.
This is one of the reasons that Johnston and other members of PFLAG, an organization that advocates for people who are LGBT, are asking Council to approve the resolution, which would affirm the rights of LGBT citizens to live discrimination-free lives.
This resolution could help to correct the false perception that everyone in Wyoming disapproves of the LGBT community, while also working to discourage the discrimination that does exist, explained Johnston.
“We aren’t asking for special rights,” he added.
Council members agreed to continue discussing the matter at another upcoming work session.
Councilman Bob Hopkins was not opposed to the idea of a resolution, but said he needs to carefully consider its wording before he can approve it.
Attempts to pass an anti-discrimination bill through the state Legislature have failed. During past efforts, multiple religious leaders have spoken out against such a measure, saying a law was not the answer.
At the same time, other cities and towns in Wyoming have established resolutions or ordinances to promote equal rights and opportunities for LGBT residents.
A resolution doesn’t have the same teeth as an ordinance, but Johnston previously told the Star-Tribune that he believes it would “set a tone” of acceptance in the city.