June 2023 set as Anti-Discrimination Month in Lander

    (Lander, WY) – The Lander City Council proclaimed June 2023 as Anti-Discrimination Month during its regular meeting Tuesday. The proclamation coincides with National Pride Month.

    The proclamation says the City “is dedicated to ensuring that all people, but especially those most vulnerable to violence and discrimination, are empowered to live freely and authentically.”

    “The City of Lander is committed to upholding the rights of all to gather peaceably in public places, as enshrined in our First Amendment, and acknowledges the continued need for education and awareness to end discrimination and prejudice,” the proclamation states. “(We are) committed to honoring our diverse community and building a culture of love, inclusion, and acceptance … and commit to working for equality and justice for all.”


    Respect and dignity

    Mayor Monte Richardson made a statement before the proclamation was read, reminding the public that city government is “here for all the citizens of Lander.”

    “This proclamation … includes everybody,” Richardson said. “We know we’re not all going to get along – we’re going to disagree – but we need to be respectful and treat each other with dignity.

    “And I’ve seen that not happen.”

    Over the past several years, “during COVID, during elections, during everything that’s happened,” Richardson said he has noticed a change in the way local residents interact with one another.


    “We need to go back (to) respecting each other,” he said. “We’ve forgotten how to do that. … Lander is a better place than what I see people showing each other, and we want (to) go back to showing each other the respect and dignity that should happen.”

    He added that discrimination “happens all the time” in Lander.

    “It happens daily, and I see it,” he said, asking others who witness discrimination to “step up and say, ‘Stop, that’s not right.’”


    Public comments

    More than 100 people attended Tuesday’s meeting, and several spoke about the anti-discrimination proclamation during public comment.

    “It’s really important,” said Amy Skinner, a longtime Lander resident and a supporter of Wind River Pride, a Lander-based organization that hosts inclusive community events for LGBTQIA+ people. “It’s one little way that you can show, and our community can show, that we really do respect and love all of our community members.”

    Wind River Pride organizer Ari Kamil expressed appreciation for the “choice” the city has made to “make a space inclusive, welcoming and comfortable for those of us in your community (who) don’t feel safe and don’t feel protected, who don’t feel comfortable walking down the street, don’t feel comfortable going into businesses on Main Street and around town, don’t feel comfortable being honest about our identities and our humanness and our existence.”


    “When we have a drag show, and we have tens or hundreds of people who come together, that is the one space where we can be authentically expressive and creative and joyful and compassionate and loving without fear of retaliation, retribution, hate, violence, or anything else that somebody might decide to impose upon us because of their ideological (or) religious, moral beliefs,” Kamil said. “(So) thank you, council, and thank you to all of the humans who came into this room today to say, ‘We see you, and we love you, and we support you unconditionally.’ That is huge.”

    Lander resident Karen Wetzel also spoke about Wind River Pride events during her time at the podium.

    “(They) are loud,” Wetzel said. “They scream through bull horns (and) have cursed at us in public – which is, by the way, against the law. If they do that in the future, I will be asking the law to come and stop them, because that’s what the law or the authorities have told us that we need to do.”

    She read aloud the city ordinance banning “lewd or indecent acts” in public places, as well as the state statute prohibiting “any indecent or obscene act in the presence of a child.”

    “We are not against Wind River Pride,” Wetzel said. “What we are against is that they hold events in a public place with children present while they’re screaming obscenities through a microphone. …

    “If they want to hold their events in a closed venue, then that’s fine. With no children in tow – that would also be the best thing to do. Children don’t need to be involved with the things that they’re doing.”

    Fiadh Vincent – who introduced herself as a “member of the LGBTQ2S+ community” who was “born and raised in Fremont County” – reminded the group in attendance Tuesday that they had all just recited the Pledge of Allegiance, which ends with the phrase “justice for all.”

    “That means we’re allowed to be in public; we’re allowed to use our freedom of speech,” she said. “There are many things that go on in public, on Main Street, that I find offensive from other groups. That’s their right to do so, (and) just as they have their rights, we have ours. And we are refusing to go back into hiding to make them feel more comfortable.”

    Riverton resident Kirbie Despain, who also spoke at the meeting, said she brings her children to drag shows and other Pride events because she wants them to learn to “be kind” and “to love everybody.”

    “I am teaching (them) that everyone is different,” she said. “What is the problem with someone being different? Just because it’s not what you believe in doesn’t mean that they’re a bad person, or they’re doing something awful.”

    Just the other day, she recalled, her 8-year-old said, “I don’t understand why everyone has such a problem with people who aren’t like them.”

    “That’s something I think everyone really needs to think about,” she said. “The amount of people that speak very rudely about LGBTQIA+ members is really bad – it’s really hard to hear. … I think what we all can learn from this, honestly, is to really take a look at yourself and (ask), ‘Am I being kind?’”

    Council comments

    Councilmember John Larsen voiced his objection to the anti-discrimination proclamation after it was read into the record Tuesday, explaining that, while he agrees “100 percent” with the content, he doesn’t think “there’s a need for an anti-discrimination proclamation due to the state constitution (and) U.S. Constitution.”

    Later, Councilmember Julia Stuble thanked those who contributed to the anti-discrimination conversation and acknowledged that June is national LGBTQIA+ Pride month – a time to “celebrate the strides we’ve made towards equity and to reflect on the work we still have to do.”

    “I’m committed to doing that work,” she said, “and I’m so grateful to Wind River Pride for the brave community building you do every day to help us get to that point.”

    For more information, call the City of Lander at 332-2870.

    Reporter Vince Tropea contributed to this report.


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