Casper City Council on Tuesday decided not to hold a public hearing in two weeks on a proposed resolution to support the nondiscrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons.

The resolution was among a group of issues, most being ordinances about liquor license transfers, that was being scheduled for public hearings on Feb. 20.

Council members approved the others for public hearings, but not the resolution.

In November, City Council gave tentative approval to the draft resolution after a request by the local chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, City Manager Carter Napier wrote in a memo to council. "Historically, LGBT persons have been harassed, rejected, and even murdered for being different," Napier wrote.

Mayor Ray Pacheco said after the meeting that the council made the decision Tuesday after one council member said earlier that he had heard from many people in the community and that a public hearing may not be in the best interest of the public. Unlike ordinances, council can pass resolutions without public hearings.

But several people objected during the public comment period after the city finished its business.

"I think we all should have a say," Dale Zimmerle said. "I think you're poking a bear here."

Zimmerle quoted from 1 Corinthians 6:9, which says in part those who participate in same-sex intercourse will not inherit the kingdom of God.

"If this proclamation passes, you're saying it's okay to be homosexual," he said. "I say as a Christian you cannot vote yes for it."

Rob Peterson, pastor of Hilltop Baptist Church, said the resolution is a step towards an agenda that could create a group that is discriminated against.

"This would create, myself being discriminated against from holding a biblical Christian worldview," Peterson said.

After the meeting, he said he has told heterosexual couples that he will not marry them. But a resolution like this could lead to him being sued if he refuses to marry a homosexual couple, he said.

Several people who objected to the council's decision added that existing law already prohibits discrimination, The resolution, they said, would give special rights to those who identify as LGBT.

Dee Lundberg, pastor of United Church of Christ. Tom Morton, Townsquare Media
Dee Lundberg, pastor of United Church of Christ. Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

But resolution proponent Dee Lundberg responded that the city council was not elected to be religious leaders, and there are a lot of Christians who disagree about homosexuality.

Lundberg, pastor of the United Church of Christ, also criticized the comments that a nondiscrimination resolution is unnecessary because discrimination is already illegal.

The city's website already mentions separate categories of sex, religion, race and sexual orientation in its hiring policy, she said.

"Of course, we're supposed to love everybody and not discriminate against anybody," Lundberg said. "It sounds really la, la, fluffy warm and fuzzy kittens and rainbows; and that's not the reality."

The issue is that discrimination is real and identifying it mitigates it, Lundberg said. "Naming is one of the most healing, powerful things we do as a country; to right wrongs; to be fair."

Those named in the city's hiring policy are more likely to be discriminated against, she said.

This issue isn't about the stupid debate over whether a baker discriminates against someone else by refusing to make a cake for a wedding, she said.

It's much more important than that, Lundberg said. "When it comes to housing, when it comes to employment, when it comes to health care, we have to protect those things for everyone."

Council member Dallas Laird said this was a resolution, not an ordinance that has the force of law.

"It does seem to be divisive and people are pretty well set in how they're viewing this issue," Laird said.

Council member Chris Walsh said lots of people have already made their opinions known, and a public hearing could get out of hand.

"I voted against the public hearing, and I truly believe this, I do not believe this will be a civil demonstration of each point," Walsh said. "I think that this will be so divisive that people will attack each other."

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