The civil rights group Wyoming Equality accused Wyoming Sen. Lynn Hutchings of comparing homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia in a meeting last week with LGBTQ youth, according to an informal complaint made public by the organization.
The advocacy group posted the complaint Friday afternoon on its website. It also posted a link to the complaint on its Facebook page.
“It is our understanding that while the state legislature’s anti-harassment policy mentions no protected classes, including sexual orientation and gender identity, Senator Hutchings’ behavior was unacceptable and inexcusable,” the complaint reads. “Fourteen- and fifteen-year old high school students wishing to engage with the legislative process should not have been confronted with the comments made by Senator Hutchings.”
Hutchings did not respond to email and phone requests seeking comment Friday.
On Feb. 1, the Cheyenne-based organization hosted Gay-Straight Alliance Civics Day at the Capitol, giving members of LGBTQ activist clubs across the state an opportunity to “learn about state government and civic engagement,” according to a Wyoming Equality announcement Friday. At this year’s event, Hutchings met with 10 members of the Cheyenne Central High School Gay Straight Alliance, who had requested to speak to her about House Bill 230, known as the “Enhancing Quality Employment Law,” according to Wyoming Equality.
The bill, which died in the House on Monday night, would have granted workplace protections to members of the LGBTQ community.
The students wanted Hutchings, their district representative, to support the bill, according to the complaint letter.
According to the complaint, she responded by saying: “If my sexual orientation was to have sex with all of the men in there and I had sex with all of the women in there and then they brought their children and I had sex with all of them and then brought their dogs in and I had sex with them, should I be protected for my sexual orientation?”
Hutchings’ behavior was “unacceptable and inexcusable,” the complaint says. The conversation was not recorded, according to Wyoming Equality spokesperson Shayna Lonoaea-Alexander.
Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr tweeted Friday night, "Shame on you, Sen Hutchings. We deserve better. Our youth deserve better. Bestiality is equivalent to being gay? Really?"
After Hutchings allegedly made the comments, she rebuffed the students’ attempts to clarify the meaning of the bill, the complaint alleges. Hutchings “motioned to fist bump the students and embraced one of them” after the discussion, the letter says.
Some of the members of the club identify as LGBTQ, according to Wyoming Equality. All other discussions with legislators that day were “civil and respectful no matter where the legislators stood on bills and issues,” the complaint states.
The letter was addressed to Senate President Drew Perkins, R-Casper, and Sens. Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, and Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie. Dockstader said in an email late Friday that he had not "seen the formal complaint, (but) will take a look at this when back in Cheyenne on Monday." Neither Perkins nor Rothfuss responded to messages seeking comment Friday.
Lonoaea-Alexander said Saturday that Perkins had told the group early in the week he was planning to meet with Hutchings to discuss the Feb. 1 meeting and Wyoming Equality's complaint. The group has not heard back from Senate leadership as of Saturday, Lonoaea-Alexander said.
The group had been hoping to wait for that response before publishing a public statement about the meeting with Hutchings, Lonoaea-Alexander said. However, a TV news report midweek on the meeting led to the group putting out a press release Friday. The announcement said Hutchings was aware of the complaint as of Friday.
“This incident is not unique,” the announcement says. “We hear stories like this across Wyoming all time. The difference is this happened at the state legislature where every Wyomingite should be welcomed and given the respect and dignity we all deserve.”
Hutchings has made comments critical of homosexuality before. When the Legislature debated domestic partnership legislation in 2013, Hutchings said being gay was harmful to the mind, spirit and body and noted the number of cases of AIDS.
In December, lawmakers rolled back anti-discrimination protections governing the Legislature months after instituting rules to punish the use of discriminatory language against members of the LGBTQ community. The rules affected legislator conduct.
Wyoming Equality was also disappointed by HB230 not receiving a vote Monday.
"We’ve been working on nondiscrimination for a long time now," Lonoaea-Alexander said. "And we’re still committed to moving forward. If anything, this fires us up to keep on going, knowing that we can’t always rely on our legislators to do the right thing but we can rely on the community for support and to do the right thing."