Wyoming state House gives initial approval to religious freedom bill

Staff Reports

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A bill regarding the religious rights of people has received initial approval in the state House of Representatives.

WyomingHouse Bill 83 won preliminary approval on Thursday. It faces two more votes in the chamber before it can be sent on to the Senate for further debate.

The bill would allow businesses to deny services when their religion disagrees with another person’s actions, including potentially allowing county clerks to deny issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Supporters say the bill protects the religious rights of people who don’t want to participate in activities they find morally objectionable. Opponents argue the bill would curtail the rights of others.

The bill comes after Wyoming was forced by a federal court to recognize gay marriage.

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The bill’s main sponsor is Republican Rep. Nathan Winters, of Thermopolis.

Winters says the measure aims to defend religious freedom from government overreach. But Democratic Rep. James Byrd, of Cheyenne, says the bill would legalize discrimination.

Cheyenne Democrat Mary Throne says the legislation goes against Wyoming values: “This will send an awful, awful message around the country about our state. An ugly message that is contrary to everything I have learned in my life here.”

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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