A bill criminalizing transgender-related treatments for minors received loud opposition in the Wyoming Senate on Thursday, but it wasn’t from a member of the legislative body.
A woman watching from the gallery started yelling profanities at senators after they cast their votes on Senate File 111, which would criminalize child sex-change operations in Wyoming. She was apparently dismayed with the result of the vote, which passed SF 111 22-9.
“They called them a mother—– and then went around the other side and called them f—ing idiot,” Senate Sergeant In Arms Dick Morrison told Cowboy State Daily. “It caused a disturbance.”
Although no profanities can be heard emanating from the audience in the video from the discussion on the bill titled “Child Abuse-Change of Sex,”, the woman can be heard yelling “stupid!” two times.
Senate President Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, called a five-minute recess as senators looked up at the distraction.
“If you’re doing something disruptive then we stop,” Driskill said. “If you continue to disrupt then you should not be around.”
Morrison said his security staff have protocols for handling disturbances like this.
The woman left the gallery on her own and went into a bathroom. She was confronted by Capitol security while writing a letter to one of the senators in the lobby outside the Senate floor.
“She was very irrational, she kept saying, ‘My family my family family,’” Morrison said.
Morrison reminded the woman about the rules the public must adhere to at the Wyoming Capitol and while attending sessions of the Legislature, and said he considered the outburst “innocent.”
Although she was escorted from the Senate chambers, Morrison said she was not removed from the Capitol.
A Passionate Topic
Driskill said he spoke to the woman after the disruptive event, who told him she has transgender children.
“She’s got children that fall in that deal and I told her, ‘I feel for you and I understand,’” he said. “We all get emotional, and I don’t think it was a major deal.
“We don’t like the disruptions, but people do get passionate about our bills.”
Driskill said as long as good decorum is kept, he has no problem with passionate discussion. He also doesn’t want people seeing the principle of good decorum as restricting free speech.
“What it says is act with respect, and if you continue (to not show respect) I’m very hardcore on it,” he said. “As long as it’s not intended to endanger, threaten people in the chamber, to me, it’s being a human being.”
Passion Leads To Progress
Although Driskill voted for the bill, he said he sympathized with the woman and supports people who identify as LGBTQ+.
“I have no problem with the different persuasions of LGBTQ,” he said. “But when it comes down to minors and that (gender surgeries), I can’t have that.”
Sara Burlingame, director of LGBTQ advocacy group Wyoming Equality, also spoke to the woman.
“I fully understand being frustrated that bills like this would make you a felon for helping your child and that’s a scary, dangerous thing to hear,” Burlingame said. “And our ability to fight these bills is hampered, is hard by engaging them like this.
“All of our progress has been made because we sit down at the table and we engage these thoughtfully, with passion.”
Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, remarked during a committee meeting afterward that the disturbance made him feel threatened.
“If you cause a disturbance in the Senate gallery, they don’t know if you’re armed or not,” Burlingame said. “They don’t know what kind of threat you are or are not, and people deserve to feel safe. Everybody deserves to feel safe.”
The topic of transgender issues often brings an impassioned response from people on both sides of the aisle. Burlingame said when someone starts disrespecting someone who disagrees with them, all chances of convincing the listener go out the window.
“Decorum and respect are the alpha and omega,” Burlingame said. “Once that goes, everything goes.”