After three readings and several months of work with the LGBTQ advisory group, the Casper city council has passed a nondiscrimination ordinance that would add penalties if people are discriminated against based on various protected classes.

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The ordinance change was initially proposed by the council-appointed LGBTQ advisory committee and will make Casper one of a few cities in the state to pass this type of ordinance.

The ordinance would add a penalty of up to $750 in fines and six months in jail for assault, assault, and battery, damaging property based on the protected classes,

It would also add a fine of up to $750 if someone is discriminated against based on the protected class in housing, employment, and public accommodations.

Besides correcting two grammatical errors, the council passed an amendment to the ordinance that would strike age from the list of protected classes.

Council member Amber Pollock said they would like to consider adding age again at some point in the future but want to discuss that part of the issue more before adding it to the ordinance.

The vote, as was the case at the two other readings, was almost unanimous with only council member Steve Cathey voting against it.

Several dozen people showed up to the meeting, with 26 people providing commentary on the ordinance both for and against for over two hours.

Of the people that spoke for the ordinance, they said that it would show the world that Casper is accepting, it would help slow the number of people leaving the community, and while it wouldn't stop violence against protected classes it would help to send a message.

Of the people that spoke against the ordinance, people brought up issues with the bill such as whether it will help minority communities, its enforceability, whether people will be required to hire a certain way, whether it will compel certain types of speech, that it is too different from other nondiscrimination ordinances, and that people will be discriminated against because of the ordinance.

In response to those that spoke against it, several council members attempted to address several of the points brought up, with council member Kyle Gamroth pointing to the high burden of proof as a reason to not worry about the impact it will have.

Kyle True, who has spoken against the ordinance at previous meetings, said that gender expression shouldn't be included because it is a choice and the only things included should be something that people are born with.

Pollock asked True if he believes religious identity, which is also included as a protected class, is a choice and he responded by saying that a religion is something that people are raised in that environment.

"That's not the reason those laws were passed in American history," True said. "It's because people are so often raised in a religion and so it is often considered from a jurisdictional standpoint something that is a matter of faith, and not necessarily a choice. So religious expression and religious practice is clearly protected. But whether you dress in leather and whether that's appropriate for a job, I question whether those choices are anywhere near comparable."

Carole Smith came up to comment on the ordinance and said that there is a large issue of pedophilia due to people in the transgender community.

"I can tell you pedophilia is on the rise in this nation and it is a very frightening thing and a lot of out there promoting pedophilia are the transgender and fortunately," Smith said. "I know for a company I volunteer for, and every week we get multiple pages of sexual predators or convicted sexual offenders in our community and our notebook is this big, just for Natrona County. It's huge and it's a problem. We really do need to protect our children. How will affect transgender men wanting to be female in our women's restrooms...I'm not saying all pedophiles are transgender. But, the transgender community is promoting pedophilia, is what I'm saying. They're loudly promoting it. Other people are quietly doing it, but these people are loudly promoting it. And it's happened in Texas, LA, Philadelphia, San Fransico, all across the country and we really do need to protect our children."

In the discussion of the ordinance, council members Pollock and Jai-Ayla Sutherland both said that they took issue with the type of language brought up by Smith.

Sutherland said that it was very offense what Smith said about the trans community.

"I cannot accept widespread allegations that trans individuals are promoting pedophilia and somehow as a community are harming children," Sutherland said. "I just think that's completely inaccurate and illogical and really dangerous and offense for so many people. So I'm offended by those comments, I'm offended by how that can affect people I know and care about. It's just wrong."

Pollock said it's important to address comments people make that are inaccurate because letting false information stick is dangerous.

"I'm really glad council member Sutherland called out the comments regarding the trans community and the gross misinformation represented here tonight around that community," Pollock said. "I think we have a commitment to continue to do that at every chance we get to continue to make sure people are provided with correct and accurate information because it gets really dangerous if they aren't. Scapegoating of vulnerable people is a known precursor to violence, which is exactly what we're talking about in this ordinance. So I'd encourage folks in the room to take opportunities where they can, because those are ultimately the thing, pushing back on those types of a little bit more sinister attacks through the use of information, weaponizing information, is the way that we really make big changes in this area, so I encourage people to recognize it when they see it."

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