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Transgender restroom debate

A sign indicates a transgender-friendly restroom at the 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina.

A Cheyenne legislator wants to amend civil rights-era legislation to bar transgender individuals from using public bathrooms in Wyoming.

People would be subject to imprisonment for using a bathroom that does not correspond to their “sex identified at birth by the person’s anatomy” under House Bill 244, which would expand the crime of public indecency.

To be charged with public indecency under the existing law, a person must engage in an activity “with the intent of arousing the sexual desire of himself or another person.”

Sponsor Rep. Lars Lone, R-Cheyenne, declined to speak with a Star-Tribune reporter at the Wyoming Legislature.

“Bathroom bills,” meant to bar transgender people from using public restrooms, have become popular among socially conservative Republican legislators around the country.

Transgender people’s gender does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, a transgender woman’s birth certificate might list her as a male. But House Bill 244 would bar even individuals whose birth certificate has been amended to reflect their gender.

Lone’s bill would also amend Wyoming’s anti-discrimination law.

The law governing access to public accommodations, passed in 1957, allows “all persons of good deportment” access to any public establishment and bars discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, sex or national origin.

House Bill 244 would make that legislation subject to the new definition of public indecency and allow barring access to bathrooms on the basis of sex. People convicted of using the wrong bathroom would be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months imprisonment, a $750 fine or both.

The anti-discrimination statute was originally passed after Republican Gov. Milward L. Simpson warned the Legislature that by the mid-1950s Wyoming was one of the only non-southern states that did not permit all citizens access to public accommodations, according to an article in the history journal Annals of Wyoming.

House Bill 244 would allow cleaning staff and people providing medical aid to enter any bathroom they need.

While Rep. Roy Edwards, R-Gillette, announced his intention to file a bathroom bill several weeks ago, he has not yet done so.

Only Rep. Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan, has co-sponsored Lone’s bill.

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While he could not be reached for comment by the Star-Tribune, Lone told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle before the legislative session began that his main priority was solving the state’s budget deficit.

“Reduce spending is the first goal we have to accomplish,” Lone said.

In addition to House Bill 244, Lone has sponsored five other bills, including one that would require all Internet-enabled electronics sold in Wyoming to include software blocking obscene material like pornography, a bill that would make it easier to stop making alimony payments and a bill that would require voters to show photo identification at the polls.

House Bill 244 was filed Thursday and has yet to be assigned to a committee.

State politics reporter Laura Hancock contributed to this article from Cheyenne.

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