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Wyoming shows slight improvement, still lags for LGBTQ protections

Wyoming’s seven-largest communities scored far below average on a national human rights organization’s review of LGBTQ protections released this week.

With an average score of 20, Wyoming’s municipalities ranked dead-last in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Municipal Equality Index, with two communities – Rock Springs and Sheridan – receiving scores of zero. Only two communities, Jackson and Laramie, scored above a 50, however both still fell below the national average score of 58.

Regardless of the lagging performance, Sara Burlingame, executive director of Wyoming Equality, said the scores showed progress.

“That’s still huge movement for us,” she said.

The town of Jackson, which passed a non-discrimination ordinance this past year, lead the state with a score of 52. Other Wyoming municipalities evaluated were Laramie (51 points), Casper (11 points), Cheyenne (5 points) and Gillette (22 points).

“Wyoming’s motto is the Equality State and we got closer to living up to that this year when Jackson Hole became the second city to pass an NDO,” said Burlingame. “Churches, schools and neighbors mobilized this last year to help defeat bad bills. Cheyenne’s mayor, Marian Orr vowed to take the fight for non-discrimination to the state Legislature, and we stand behind her.”

While the “perfect” scores on the list were dominated by larger cities, two communities with populations under 25,000 people — Brookings, South Dakota (the home of South Dakota State University) and Ferndale, Michigan (a hip Detroit suburb) – also made the list.

The equality index rated not just the 50 state capitals and the 200 largest cities in America, but also the five largest cities or municipalities in each state and the homes of the state’s two largest public universities. Also included are 75 municipalities with high proportions of same-sex couples and 98 other cities selected by the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Federation state group members and supporters.

Each city was assessed on 49 distinct criteria, including whether or not they had implemented citywide nondiscrimination protections and policies for municipal employees, city services and law enforcement. Each city’s relationship with the LGBTQ community was also evaluated.

Cities with scores of zero were rare on the list, with just a dozen other cities and towns on the list. These included large cities like Laredo, Texas, a state capital in Pierre, South Dakota, and large university towns in Clemson, South Carolina and Stillwater, Oklahoma. Other towns to score a zero include Moore, Oklahoma; Cary, North Carolina; Great Falls, Montana; Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Southaven, Mississippi; Lake Charles, Louisiana; North Druid Hills, Georgia and Ketchikan, Alaska.

The full report can be found here.

A look at Wyoming

Diving into the details, Wyoming’s only communities to score near-average – Jackson and Laramie – benefitted from perfect scores under the nondiscrimination ordinance category, netting them 30 points each. With protections for discrimination in city employment – and a show of leadership on implementing pro-equality legislation – both municipalities earned some additional points to pad their scores.

Wyoming’s other communities, without a larger non-discrimination law in place, earned their points where they could get them.

Gillette, the third-highest scoring municipality in the state does not have a citywide non-discrimination law on the books. But it did receive points for its non-discrimination policy for city employees based on sexual orientation and for reporting its hate crime statistics to the FBI. The school district also has taken some steps to address youth bullying and has taken steps toward boosting suicide prevention efforts after the suicide of bullied teen Trevor O’Brien.

“They take that really serious in Gillette, and are doing a lot more to address that,” said Burlingame.

Cheyenne – almost exclusively due to the advocacy of Mayor Marion Orr and members of its city council – won five points for its leadership on pro-equality policies, a category where Casper also won some points due to its recent efforts to pass its own non-discrimination policies.

All the scores by city are available to view here.

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Wyoming Rescue Mission opens new, larger Park Street Center facility

Homeless citizens sometimes slept on the floor at the Wyoming Rescue Mission, but the organization’s executive director Brad Hopkins said he hopes those days are done.

The Christian nonprofit — which helps the homeless get back on their feet — officially opened its new Park Street Center facility Tuesday. The new structure can accommodate nearly 200 people per night, roughly twice as many as before.

During the grand opening ceremony, Hopkins told the crowd that the center was designed to communicate a sense of “dignity and value and worth” to every guest.

Gov. Matt Mead spoke at the event and praised the generosity of Casper’s residents.

People tend to inquire about the local economy when trying to evaluate their city, the governor said, but all too often, they forget to ask how they’re doing in regards to caring for their neighbors.

Mead said homelessness is an issue close to his heart. He said his great-grandfather fell on hard times as a young man and ended up with nowhere to live — until a Native American tribe in Idaho took him in one winter.

“He taught me it was important to give back,” Mead said.

The governor also acknowledged that can it be difficult to admit you need assistance and he applauded those who take that step.

“It takes a certain amount of courage to come and say, ‘I need help,’” he said.

The nonprofit broke ground on the new 22,000 square foot facility last November. In addition to more beds, it also offers a larger kitchen and dining area, as well as classrooms and spaces where clients can meet with case managers.

Hopkins said last year that the Wyoming Rescue Mission is the only emergency shelter for hundreds of miles. There are shelters in Cheyenne, Jackson and Gillette, but many people experiencing homelessness make their way to Casper and the mission, even if they have to hitchhike.

Approximately three quarters of the mission’s clients are Wyoming residents, according to Hopkins. Between July 2015 and June 2016, the mission provided more than 26,000 beds to those in need and more than 41,000 meals, according to its 2016 annual report.

UN's Haley to leave in latest Trump shake-up

WASHINGTON — In the latest shake-up for President Donald Trump’s turbulent administration, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley abruptly announced Tuesday she is resigning at the end of the year, raising fresh questions about the Trump team and about the outspoken diplomat’s own political ambitions.

The news blindsided some key U.S. allies and many congressional Republicans involved in foreign policy matters. And it came less than a month before congressional elections, thwarting White House efforts to project an image of stability, with the loss of one of the highest-profile women in the administration at a time when women’s votes are being vigorously pursued.

But Haley, the former South Carolina governor, has often been an unpredictable and independent force in the Trump administration. At times she has offered strikingly different perspectives on world events from her more isolationist-minded boss.

A smiling Haley announced her decision at an Oval Office meeting alongside the president, bringing up her own political prospects even as she underscored her continued support for Trump. Without prompting from reporters, she said she had no plans to run for president “in 2020” and would campaign for Trump.

Haley, who is 46 and not personally wealthy, hinted in her resignation letter to Trump that she is headed to the private sector.

“I have given everything I’ve got these last eight years,” she said, referring to her six years as governor as well as her time at the U.N. “And I do think it’s good to rotate in other people who can put that same energy and power into it.”

Trump was asked why the announcement was made now since Haley is staying until the end of the year.

Instead of answering directly, he recounted how she has had to work on tough issues, such as Iran and North Korea.

White House officials had sought to put a hold on Trump’s record-setting turnover in the run-up to the Nov. 6 elections, with aides being asked months ago to step down or commit to stay through Election Day to avoid adding to a sense of turmoil.

Still, the prospect of post-midterm changes continues to hang over the West Wing, and Haley’s exit was one that has been discussed, according to a senior administration official not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations.

A number of officials speculated that the timing was meant to preserve the ambassador’s own political future. A post in the Trump administration has proven to be a rickety stepping-stone to either lucrative private sector work or hopes for higher office, and the risk to those ambitions might only increase after the elections if Democrats make significant gains in Congress.

Trump said Haley first discussed leaving with him six months ago. The senior official noted that their conversation coincided with the appointments of Mike Pompeo as secretary of state and John Bolton as national security adviser in an earlier upending of top foreign policy officials. Haley had expressed some frustration that her voice had been diminished as the two men became the aggressive new faces of Trump’s international policy, the official said.

The six-month timeline also coincides with a high-profile spat between Haley and the White House in April, when she drew the president’s ire for previewing in a television appearance the administration’s planned imposition of a new round of sanctions on Russia. When the sanctions never materialized, White House officials said the plans had changed without Haley being briefed, and economic adviser Larry Kudlow suggested she was confused.

“I don’t get confused,” Haley said in a sharply-worded rejoinder to the West Wing.

Haley was appointed to the U.N. post in November 2016 and last month coordinated Trump’s second trip to the United Nations, including his first time chairing the Security Council.

At the U.N., she helped spearhead the administration’s efforts to combat what it alleged to be anti-American and anti-Israel actions by the international body, including the U.S. decision to leave the Human Rights Council and to stop funding the U.N. agency for Palestinian Refugees.

Haley also secured three successively tougher Security Council sanction resolutions against North Korea — which the administration has credited with bringing Kim Jong Un to the negotiating table — and an arms embargo against South Sudan.

Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One he was considering five candidates for Haley’s job and that a successor would be named in two to three weeks — or maybe sooner. Among those under consideration, Trump said, is former deputy national security adviser Dina Powell. Trump told reporters that he has heard his daughter Ivanka Trump’s name discussed for the post, but said if he selected her he’d be accused of nepotism.

In a tweet, the presidential senior adviser and eldest daughter praised Haley, saying Trump will “nominate a formidable replacement for Ambassador.”

She added: “That replacement will not be me.”

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell’s name has also been floated for the post, but Trump suggested he’d rather keep him in his current post “because he’s doing such a good job.”