A bathroom privacy bill floated by Rep. Roy Edwards has not been introduced, but a new bill filed by Rep. Lars Lone would fulfill the same purpose — making it a crime for people to use public restrooms that do not correspond to the gender listed on their birth certificate.

HB 244, which carries the title “Public indecency,” would have the same adverse effect on transgender populations as the bill proposed by Rep. Edwards (R, HD-53, Gillette), according to Sara Burlingame of Wyoming Equality. The organization advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Rep. Lone (R, HD-12, Cheyenne) said the proposal will protect schools that want to establish separate bathroom policies for students.

Rep. Lars Lone (R, HD-12, Cheyenne)
Representative Lars Lone (R, Cheyenne)

“Some of these schools have an intent to provide specific moral teachings to students,” he said. “They may want to enforce gender specificity.”

Lone also said he worries about his future child “walking into a bathroom and seeing something that is unexpected.” He might have to explain concepts to his child before he or she was ready to receive them, he said.

His bill would make it a crime of public indecency if a person “knowingly uses a public bathroom or changing facility designated to be used by a specific sex which does not correspond to the person’s sex identified at birth by the person’s anatomy,” according to the draft bill language.

That crime would be added to other “public indecency” offenses listed under existing statute, such as self exposure or non-consensual sexual contact.

Lone’s bill, Burlingame said, is worse than what she understood of Edwards’ proposal. It’s “much more intentionally punitive and shaming to the transgender community,” Burlingame said of the new bill. The message it sends to transgender people is “your existence is an act of public indecency,” she said.   

Burlingame and another representative of Wyoming Equality had previously told WyoFile that Edwards’ idea was discrimination aimed at transgender people. They said transgender people are already at a higher risk of developing kidney problems or urinary tract infections because they are uncomfortable using public restrooms, a problem legislation of this nature compounds.

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Burlingame also said that legislators who wish to enact exclusionary laws around the country are seizing on the momentum of the Trump election and its divisive rhetoric. She was skeptical of Lone’s stated desire to protect the choices of schools. If that was his goal, she asked, “then why didn’t he write that bill?”

Wyoming Equality has also said that if enacted, such legislation would be economically damaging to the state. Edwards had said his bill would be similar to North Carolina’s highly controversial House Bill 2, which drew economic backlash to the state.

Representative Roy Edwards (R, Gillette)
Representative Roy Edwards (R, Gillette)

Paypal and Deutsche Bank, both large international corporations, cancelled planned expansions in the state, causing a combined loss of 650 jobs in North Carolina. Sponsors have cancelled rock concerts, conventions, a film project and sporting events, including the NBA 2016-2017 All Star game, since the bill’s passage. Several states and local governments banned taxpayer-funded trips to the North Carolina.

Lone said he was not familiar with North Carolina’s legislation. When informed of the economic impacts the law’s passage inadvertently caused for North Carolina, and asked whether he would be concerned about similar impacts to Wyoming’s struggling state revenues, he said it could be an issue. “That would be a concern of mine,” he said.

On Jan. 26, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead told K2 Radio that bills dealing with public restrooms would undermine the state’s work to live up to its name as “the Equality State,” and distract the Legislature from weightier topics like the education funding deficit.

As for Edwards, he did not rule out his own bathroom privacy bill. “I still might bring it,” he said on Jan. 26. Bills in the House must be introduced by Jan. 30.

Andrew Graham is reporting for WyoFile from Laramie. He covers state government, energy and the economy. Reach him at 443-848-8756 or at andrew@wyofile.com, follow him @AndrewGraham88

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