Roy Edwards

Rep. Roy Edwards, R-Gillette, looks around the Wyoming House of Representatives on Wednesday at the Jonah Business Center in Cheyenne. Edwards is preparing a bill that would require people in Wyoming to use the bathroom that corresponds to the biological sex listed on their birth certificate.

CHEYENNE — A legislator from Campbell County wants a state law governing which bathroom Wyomingites are allowed to use.

Roy Edwards, R-Gillette, said he is drafting a bill that would require people to use the bathroom, locker room or changing facility that corresponds to the biological sex listed on their birth certificate.

“I’ve had it (in) mind ever since the problem started happening when people of the other sex thought they could enter into the bathroom of the opposite sex,” Edwards told the Star-Tribune.

Edwards said that while this had been going on for “the last couple years,” he had not heard of any problems related to people using the bathroom in Wyoming.

“There’s people that walk into the wrong bathroom and realize it and walk back out, but that’s not the problem,” he said.

In theory, though, Edwards believes that without his proposed law, a man could enter the women’s bathroom and spy on people.

“Whatever their original birth certificate has, they need to be in that restroom,” he said. “That is the only way I can do a dividing line with it — other than having it where they do a DNA test.”

Edwards told the news website WyoFile that his legislation would mirror the bathroom-related provisions in North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2.

That bill, which similarly dictated which bathrooms people could use, was seen by critics as targeting transgender residents.

Transgender people’s gender does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, a transgender woman might be listed as male on her birth certificate.

Edwards has previously said that he believes sexual orientation is a choice.

Companies including Paypal and Deutsche Bank canceled expansion plans in North Carolina following the passage of the law there, and the NBA and NCAA both pulled sporting events from the Tarheel State.

“Companies don’t like to invest in states that have volatile culture wars raging,” said Sara Burlingame of Wyoming Equality, an LGBT advocacy organization that opposes Edwards’ proposed bill.

The News and Observer, a North Carolina newspaper, reported that the state lost between $77 million and $201 million as a result of the law. However, a top Republican official at the time disputed that House Bill 2 had a negative impact on North Carolina, noting that any backlash was minor considering the total size of the state’s economy.

The issue of bathroom use came up in several Republican legislative primaries this summer.

“There are some individuals who want to make the entire debate about toilets,” Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance, said at the time.

Lindholm’s primary opponent, Ted Davis, who had attacked him over the bathroom issue, acknowledged in an August interview that he primarily raised the issue as a way to “differentiate our perspectives.”

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“They’re almost like sideline issues,” Davis said.

Burlingame said she had spoken with Edwards and invited him to meet with some of his LGBT constituents in Gillette and that she believed that “his intention is not a malevolent one.”

But she was concerned that a law like the one he is proposing could embolden people to harass transgender Wyomingites, a group that already faces discrimination from a small segment of society.

Edwards told WyoFile that he was not concerned about that issue.

Burlingame said she saw other flaws in Edwards’ logic.

On gun control, she said, many people believe more laws will only hurt law-abiding citizens because criminals would simply ignore them — so wouldn’t a bathroom-related law only affect law-abiding transgender people while sexual predators simply ignore it?

Burlingame also questioned why Edwards did not see the need for legislation to stop sexual predators in all bathrooms, including laws barring men from harassing men and boys in male bathrooms or women from harassing women or girls in female bathrooms.

“God will sort them out,” she said Edwards told her.

Edwards has not yet filed the bill and said he is still working through the precise language.

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Follow city and government reporter Arno Rosenfeld at facebook.com/arnojournalism


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