Greatest Calling: Casper Council Moves Forward With Anti-Discrimination Ordinance
Casper Mayor Ray Pacheco called it his greatest calling as a legislator to move forward with the anti-discrimination ordinance that the city attorney's office had prepared for them.
"To me, there is no greater calling as a government official that we stand to protect our community," Pacheco said. "There's no greater job than for us as people, we can pass all these pointless ordinances, but if we pass an ordinance that protects human beings, that is one of the greatest callings you can have as a government official frankly. So it's an honor to go through this process, I know Mayor Collins felt this way in Cheyenne as one of the biggest legislations he felt he passed and I feel the same way that we have an opportunity to make a statement on how we feel. I don't think it's a coincidence that tomorrow is the day that Mat Shepard passed away in 1998. I don't think that's a coincidence as we move forward with this."
The work on the ordinance began earlier this year between the attorney's office and the council-appointed LGBTQ advisory group that have been pushing for this type of ordinance for several years.
John Henley, the city attorney, said that the ordinance proposed to the council is based off ones that have been passed in Laramie and Cheyenne.
The ordinance would add a penalty of up to $750 and six months in jail if someone commits "unlawful physical action committed on the basis of protected characteristics" or if someone is "inciting imminent lawless violence against another."
A penalty of up to $750 is added if someone is discriminated based on protected characteristics in either housing, employment, or public places.
Those protected characteristics include race, color, religion, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, or disability.
While the majority of councilmembers spoke in favor of the ordinance, Steve Cathey spoke in opposition to the ordinance because he believes it elevates one group over another, though he gave a thumbs up to move the ordinance forward.
"I have been against the hate crimes legislation from the beginning, all that did was set up a special class of crime that now a punishment is more. No, murder is murder, assault is assault, battery is battery, speeding is speeding, whatever you want to call it, crime is crime. If all men, persons, people, whatever term you want to use, if we're all equal, the crimes and the punishments should be equal across the board."
Council member Lisa Engebretsen said, after Cathey spoke, that it is about time that an ordinance like this gets passed.
"Wyoming, in a whole, is still the good old boys club. Has been for years, and that needs to change," Engebretsen said. "Is this going to stop everything? Absolutely not. Have we needed something with teeth? Absolutely. We've needed it for a very long time. The Anita Hill situation with Clarence Thomas was the beginning of it. But, it's only highlighted the problem. Wyoming, we still deal with it every single day. We women, and people in the LGBT community, and people of color, deal with this daily, multiple times a day. And so, this is us telling the world, this is not acceptable."
Vice Mayor Bruce Knell said that while he initially wasn't as in favor of the ordinance, he's since come to understand the importance of passing an anti-discrimination ordinance.
"To me, the guy that really doesn't like this is sitting at home going, I wish he'd shut up," Knell said. "That guy, he's the bully. He's the one that doesn't want to be held accountable for mistreating people and so bring it on. I'm all about it."
Council member Michael McIntosh spoke in favor of the ordinance, saying that he understands the impact of discrimination because of his wife and son.
"My wife is a minority, she's from another country, my son is gay, and I have seen personally a lot of attacks on my loved ones that appalled me," McIntosh said. "I've never liked bullies, that's the one thing in the world that I cannot stand is a bully, and I think if this will calm down some of the bullies that they'll see that there's more to it than just a slap on the wrist for what they're doing. I'm all for it."
City manager Carter Napier said that they should have the first reading of the ordinance on Nov. 15 and, assuming there are no delays, a third and final reading by Dec. 20.