(Lander, WY) – The Lander City Council convened on Tuesday, July 27th for a regular meeting, where Council Member Julia Stuble led a discussion on discrimination issues in Lander.
As Stuble began the discussion, she reminded those in attendance that there are currently no hate crime laws in the state of Wyoming, and stated that despite Lander’s reputation as a safe, open-minded community, there are still enough individual and institutional acts of discrimination to warrant Council discussion.
After Stuble’s brief introduction, the floor was opened to public discussion, where various citizens shared both personal and secondhand accounts of discrimination.
The first speaker mentioned that she had 5 friends who have experienced such hostile works environments due to their sexual orientation, that they were forced to quit and move elsewhere, also alleging two were fired due to their lifestyle. This speaker had 70 postcards signed by Lander residents supporting an ordinance.
Another speaker, a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) instructor, stated that there have been numerous potential employees for the school who chose not to move to Lander due to the lack of protection in place.
A recent Lander resident echoed this sentiment, stating, “These types of protections are what make people choose to move to a certain place.”
The second speaker of the night, Rep. Andi Clifford, who initially addressed the audience in the Arapaho language, was the first Northern Arapaho woman to be elected to the state Legislature when she won in 2018.
She stated that she came to meeting with a passion to bring more awareness to employment, housing, and accommodation discrimination that women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ face daily in their lives.
“People need to feel protected,” Clifford commented.
Another resident who has lived in Lander since the 70’s, also supported ordinance discussions. His main concern was the youth who may feel discriminated against.
The long-term resident then recounted an incident where a close friend moved out of town because they feared for their child’s life because of discrimination they faced.
“The youth are in a different place than we are,” he stated. “They are very involved in gender identity.”
He then referenced other communities that have adopted similar ordinances.
At this point in the meeting, City Treasurer Charri Lara addressed the crowd, stating that during the meeting, the city of Casper moved forward with looking into their own non-discrimination resolution. She also brought up that two other Wyoming municipalities have begun their own non-discrimination regulations, and recommended they be looked into as well.
While there was no opposition to taking a further look into the ordinance, City Attorney Adam Phillips warned of enforceability concerns, and Council Members Dan Hahn and John Larsen were surprised that people didn’t feel safe in Lander.
Both Hahn and Larsen expressed concerns about where the line is drawn in terms of what can be discriminated against.
“I thought discrimination laws already existed. Discrimination is discrimination,” Larsen stated, regarding the Federal laws that protect against certain crimes motivated by race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability.
At this point, Wyoming Equality Executive Director Sara Burlingame was given the floor to address the crowd.
“As a Wyoming girl, I don’t look to the Feds to solve my problems,” Burlingame responded, then breaking down a conversation she had with a friend who was unaware about systemic discrimination that leaves minority groups out of positions of power.
Burlingame also stressed that the other city ordinances should be looked into as well.
Council Members Hahn and Larsen also agreed the ordinances were worth further exploration, along with Members Missy White and Chris Hulme.
“We need to live up to our name as the Equality State,” White stated.
“I fully support the discussion,” Hulme added, expressing concerns about suicide rates among those who don’t feel safe.
“Whatever is decided and however it’s written, it’s got to cover everybody, not just individual groups,” Mayor Monte Richardson concluded about the proposed ordinance.
It was then unanimously decided that after reviewing other city’s policies, further non-discrimination ordinance discussions would continue.