(Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — Casper appears likely to see the formation of an “LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer)/Human Rights Advisory Committee” that would act as an advisory body to the city council.

A number of perspectives were raised during the city council’s discussion of the proposal at their Tuesday, Jan. 28 work session.

Councilman Charlie Powell, while still serving as mayor, initially suggested the council consider creating such an advisory committee after Casper scored low on a Human Rights Campaign 2019 “Municipal Equality Index.”

“Personally I couldn’t really care less what these folks think of us,” Powell said, referring to the Human Rights Campaign. “That said, it hurts us when we are mischaracterized in this manner.”

He said that from a “practical standpoint” it could be good for Casper to work to improve the score “for our own economic benefit.”

Powell said he thought that some people around the country might consider Casper’s low score when considering a potential move, despite the fact he didn’t think the score accurately reflects the community.

City Councilman Shawn Johnson said that the scores largely depend on laws which are out of the city council’s control to change. He added that in his opinion, creating more laws is not the best way to ensure that the LGBTQ community or other groups are treated equally.

“I personally think that you can’t legislate morality,” Johnson said. “This is a cultural change that is taking place and needs to continue to take place.”

Johnson said he was in support of an LGBTQ committee meant to advise the city council so long as such a committee was strictly advisory.

Other council members thought it would be better to create a “Human Rights Advisory Committee” and remove the term “LGBTQ” from the title.

Councilman Bob Hopkins suggested that the committee be designated as a general “Human Rights Advisory Committee” and that the term “LGBTQ” be removed from the proposed title.

“I am be more inclined to look at a Human Rights Advisory Council….rather than focusing on LGBTQ specifically,” he said.

Councilman Steve Cathey and Councilman Ken Bates agreed with this suggestion.

Cathey said that he thought it might be a mistake to create a council specifically dedicated to the LGBTQ community. He said that might open the door to other “particular special interest groups” seeking the formation of similar advisory boards.

“This starts to become a slippery slope that we are never going to win,” Cathey said.

Vice Mayor Khrystyn Lutz brought up the council’s decision to authorize an advisory council dedicated to people with disabilities.

“We’ve already created a special interest advisory group,” she said.

Councilman Ray Pacheco agreed.

“They are a special interest group within the community,” he said. “The milk has been spilt I think.”

“To me creating LGBTQ Advisory Council is not the fireball that everybody predicts it is.”

Building upon Hopkins proposal, the city council discussed transforming the Casper Council for People with Disabilities into the more general “Human Rights Advisory Committee.”

Councilman Mike Huber said that doing so would be a “slap in the face” to the Council for People with Disabilities, particularly since their input on the proposal had not been heard.

City Attorney John Henley spoke to this concern.

“The [disabilities] group was given a certain amount of autonomy,” he said.”Without discussion with them, that might be a little bit concerning.”

Councilman Ken Bates said that the disabilities advisory council was different from one that would be dedicated to the LGBTQ community or other minority communities.

“Any of these other groups, in a regular session, any one of them can walk down and speak to us,” Bates said. “I understand why we made it for the disability [council]…they don’t have a voice or they can’t [easily come speak at council meetings]. Unless they are disabled, they can come and speak to us about how Casper is being run.”

Pacheco said that it can be difficult for minority people to feel confident sharing their perspective publicly at council meeting.

“Unfortunately, as a minority it is tough because your voice isn’t always heard,” he said. “If you haven’t experienced that then you don’t know.”

Huber agreed with this point.

“If you are a part of a group that has been put down…it can just really be overwhelming,” he said. “Coming down and just talking can be overwhelming.”

Huber said he thought it was a good idea to create avenues for any group that may wish to speak with city council.

Pacheco also said that creating communication channels would be a good idea.

“I don’t see how it can hurt a community,” he said. “To me that is Christ-like, that we talk. That is my hope when we create things like this.”

Hopkins, Cathey and Bates indicated in a thumbs vote that they would like to create the more general “Human Rights Advisory Committee.”

The rest of the council indicated support with moving forward with the proposal to create the “LGBTQ/Human Rights Advisory Committee.”

The council will consider a resolution that would authorize the formation of this committee at a regular meeting.

If you would like to contact members of the Casper City Council regarding this or any other issue, here is their contact information:

Mayor Steve Freel (Ward III, Term expires 1/3/23):

Vice Mayor Khrystyn Lutz (Ward I, Term expires 1/3/23):

Councilman Charlie Powell (Ward II, Term Expires 1/5/21):

Councilman Shawn Johnson (Ward II, Term expires 1/3/23):

Councilman Ken Bates (Ward II, Term expires 1/5/21):

Councilman Steve Cathey (Ward III, Term Expires 1/5/21):

Councilman Bob Hopkins (Ward I, Term expires 1/5/21):

Councilman Mike Huber (Ward I, Term expires 1/5/21):

Councilman Ray Pacheco (Ward III, Term expires 1/3/23):

Council members can also be reached by mail at: 200 N. David Street, 82601

If you would like to contact members in your specific ward, but don’t know which ward you are in, a map is available at the City of Casper’s website.