Last week, with little fanfare, a bill was introduced into the Wyoming state legislature. House Bill 135, also called the Government Nondiscrimination Act, would legalize discrimination against the LGBTQ community, so long as the discrimination is done for religious or “moral” reasons.
The act is sponsored by three Republican representatives and two Republican senators.
Specifically, the bill would forbid the government from taking action against any “person,” including public and private corporations and entities, if that person acts on a “religious belief or moral conviction” that marriage is the union of one man and woman, or that “‘man’ and ‘woman’ mean an individual’s biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy genetics at the time of birth.”
The bill is remarkable for the breadth of organizations it allows to discriminate on the basis of religious freedom. “If passed, HB 135 would allow government employees, licensed professionals (like teachers or counselors) and private businesses to discriminate,” said Sabrina King, Policy Director at the ACLU of Wyoming. Under the bill, even hospitals and doctors would be allowed to deny routine health care services. (The bill does not exempt the provision of “emergency medical treatment necessary for treatment of an illness or injury.”)
The effects would be far-reaching. The bill would prevent cities, like Laramie, that have adopted local anti-discrimination laws, from enforcing them. It would allow county clerks to deny same-sex marriage licenses. Even essential social services, like homeless shelters or food services, could be denied.
“A school counselor could tell a gay or transgender student that they are a sinner and refuse to provide care, yet still keep her or his professional license and continue practicing,” said King.
It is unclear what level of proof would be needed for a “person” to assert that their religious or moral sensibilities would be offended by providing services to an LGBTQ individual. The bill fails to define “religious beliefs” or “moral convictions,” although it would require
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