Sponsors withdraw controversial religious freedom measure

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CHEYENNE (AP) — A bill that would have allowed people to sue their employers if their policies about LGBTQ people conflicted with their religious or moral convictions is being withdrawn by its sponsors.

State Republican Reps. Cheri Steinmetz, of Lingle, Sue Wilson, of Cheyenne, and Nathan Winters, of Thermopolis, announced Thursday that they were withdrawing their bill, citing a need for a more thorough discussion about it. The bill sponsors say they remain committed to safeguarding the free expression of religion.

“Equality and the protection of religious freedoms are not mutually exclusive; it is not a zero sum game,” said Rep. Winters, whose district includes Meeteetse. “Discrimination is not what our faith or values teach us. We must find a balance among our laws, ensuring both our First Amendment right to practice and live our faith each day while practicing tolerance and respect for the rights of our fellow man.”

House Bill 135 drew heavy criticism since it was introduced.

K2 Radio reported that Gov. Matt Mead said bills on social issues are detracting from what the Legislature’s main priorities should be in this session.

“Wyoming always wants to be recognized as a state that respects the rights of all people, gay and transgender, (and) respects the religious liberties and rights of people,” K2 quoted Mead as saying on Thursday in Casper.

Sabrina King, of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming, said the bill would legalize discrimination against same-sex couples and transgender people.

The gay rights organization Wyoming Equality said it was the most discriminatory of all such proposals in the nation.

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