The 65th Wyoming Legislature adjourned on Feb. 28, and while other writers here have discussed highlights, I want to talk about one particular bill that mercifully did not make it through the process.
House Bill 230, erroneously titled “Enhancing Quality Employment Law,” died in the Wyoming House of Representatives, having not made it onto the floor before time ran out. And for that, Wyoming taxpayers and businesses should be glad. Let me tell you why.
“Equal justice for all.” This was the phrase used by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser this past week when announcing the state’s intention to drop its latest legal actions against beleaguered Christian cakeshop owner Jack Phillips. Mr. Weiser, after stating he was dropping the case against the baker because it “was not in anyone’s best interest,” went on to say, “Equal justice for all will continue to be a core value that we will uphold as we enforce our state’s and nation’s civil rights laws.”
“Equal justice for all.” Hmmm. ... It’s hard not to ponder what kind of equal justice Mr. Phillips has received while being harassed by the inexhaustible pockets of the State of Colorado for years. Has he seen any equal justice while he has spent so much of his life and his money defending his right to say no to a particular request by a customer because of his religious beliefs?
The same beliefs that allowed him to be more than willing to bake any other cake for the same-sex couple. Beliefs that were accepting of the same-sex couple, but ones that simply could not affirm their need for a cake to celebrate a same-sex marriage? For these beliefs, he has been almost bankrupted.
Take note, Wyoming. There is much to be learned here.
While Mr. Weiser is safe in his government job, Mr. Phillips has had to maintain his livelihood running a business in a Colorado community. A business that has miraculously remained afloat, despite blatant attempts to shut him down using the State of Colorado as executioner, probably because so many fellow Christians and caring secular members in his community have rushed to purchase cakes and sweets to help Mr. Phillips.
The State of Colorado has already lost one long and costly taxpayer-funded legal case (ending in a United States Supreme Court decision in favor of Mr. Phillips). And yet the ink was barely dry on that decision when Mr. Phillips’ business was once again targeted, ending – for now – with the state’s withdrawal this past week.
So, the larger question here for Wyoming citizens is this: Given the deep flaws and costly legal actions we are seeing in others states with these flawed laws, do we want to risk making the same mistakes? And have proponents of these changes really provided enough evidence of consistent substantial harm being done in Wyoming to legitimize the need for coercive government intervention that could lead to costly and possibly unintended consequences like we have seen in Colorado?
Is this really and truly “good for business,” as we are constantly being told? Certainly, it would clearly depend on the business.
In effect, these types of “non-discrimination” laws trample fundamental liberties and unnecessarily encroach upon an individual’s right to live in ways consistent with their values. They forbid disagreement on LGBTQ issues and consider reasonable actions – such as in Mr. Phillips’ case, when he was willing to bake a birthday cake, but not a wedding cake – as intolerant, calling it discrimination when it was simply disagreement.
And they do not protect “equality for all,” as Mr. Weiser seems to believe. Instead, they grant special privileges to some, which can then be used to destroy the livelihoods of others.
Given the past decades’ cultural shifts that have redefined marriage, sex and gender, we must all work to find ways to live together peacefully. Unfortunately, these kinds of laws do not get us there. Perhaps we will be able to find a middle ground soon that protects the free speech and religious liberties of all of us, while also defending diversity and encouraging tolerance.
For now, we can be glad the latest deeply flawed “anti-discrimination” bill, in the form of HB 230, has once again failed to become law in Wyoming. And perhaps someday soon we can put our heads together and find a solution that respects all of us.
Amy Edmonds is a former state legislator and former communications director for Congresswoman Liz Cheney who lives in Cheyenne. When she’s not watching reruns of “Yes Minister,” she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.