State Rep. Jeanette Ward, R-Casper, says she’s boycotting every business that participated in Casper’s Pride Fest celebration last weekend.
Casper Pride Fest is part of a four-day series of events to celebrate Pride Month, held each June in recognition of the LGBTQ+ community.
“It is hateful and morally wrong to present lifestyles that are destructive to human flourishing as right and good, especially before children,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “Those pushing this agenda should consider the destructive impact that teaching children they can be something other than their biological reality has on society, and/or engaging in sexual relationships that are against nature and destructive to the body.”
Ward, one of the most conservative lawmakers in the Wyoming Legislature, said although she believes members of the LGBTQ community deserve just as much respect as anyone else, she also believes “respect does not equal agreement with their moral choices.”
The first-term state representative has said she believes marriage is defined as between “one man and one woman.” She has also opposed COVID-19 mandates and strongly supported a bill that would have prohibited doctors from performing transgender surgeries on minors.
In a Facebook post last week, Ward said she will boycott the businesses and encourage others to do the same.
Casper Pride declined to comment on Ward’s call for a boycott.
What Do The Businesses Say?
Wind City Books was one of the Casper Pride Fest sponsors. The bookstore hangs a pride flag at the front of its business.
Lauren Abesames, a manager at Wind City Books, said Ward’s boycott “does more harm than good.”
“I never understand things like that,” she said. “I believe it’s important to be a driving force for good in your community.”
Many of the businesses that sponsored Pride Fest and Ward plans to boycott are mental health organizations, nonprofits and charitable organizations like Wyoming Recovery, the Casper Humane Society and the Food Bank of Wyoming.
Casper resident Lindsey Tempest said she is concerned Ward’s comments will cause people to boycott vital services in her community.
Bob Logan is the owner of Specialty Counseling and Consulting in Casper, another Pride Fest sponsor. Logan said his business sponsors a variety of community events and that a decision to not sponsor Pride Fest would be discriminatory as he wants to show support for all groups of people.
“Even in a red Republican state, a lot of people don’t want to hear that, but that’s discriminatory,” he said.
Halley O’Donnell, owner of High Plains Adornment, another Pride Fest sponsor, commented on Ward’s post that her business “cannot express the depth of gratitude we have for you never patronizing our business.”
State Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, also criticized Ward’s remarks.
“It’s unfortunate that folks use cancel culture to harm our small town businesses,” Provenza told Cowboy State Daily. “Wyoming is a state that prides itself on hard work and supporting our neighbors, so to try and hurt our community business leaders through culture war antics is really just not on-brand with Wyoming’s values.”
Others like Casper resident Mary Schmidt rose to Ward’s defense.
Schmidt, who serves as a trustee for the Natrona County School Board but not speaking in that capacity for this interview, mentioned how organizations like the Red Cross and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention receive federal grants.
“They should be expected to spend the money they are getting for their organizations, not donating to another,” she said.
Some of the Pride Fest sponsors are government agencies and public institutions, such as the Small Business Administration, the Sheridan Veterans Affairs, Converse County Public Health, the University of Wyoming at Casper and the University of Wyoming Educational Health Center.
“I find it particularly disturbing that a number of organizations listed as pride sponsors receive funding from Wyoming taxpayers,” Ward told Cowboy State Daily.
Casper resident Dan Sabrosky mentioned how Wyoming-based social media influencer Jeffree Star, who is openly gay, has criticized “made up” gender identities, calling they/them pronouns “stupid.”
Ariana Parker said she wishes Ward would represent the district she lives in, as she would “re-elect her in a heartbeat.”
Ward moved to Wyoming in 2021, describing herself as “a political refugee from fascist Illinois” in her 2022 campaign announcement.
She said just as the businesses that sponsor Casper Pride Fest have a right to free speech, so does she.
“I have a First Amendment right to not buy from them, to speak out regarding issues they support with which I disagree and encourage others to do the same,” Ward said.
But she also said that a business that “promotes sexually explicit material to children, or encourages or practices the mutilation of children” should not be allowed in Wyoming.
Abesames said Wind City hasn’t had a noticeable change in business since Ward enacted her boycott.
On the national stage, recent boycotts have had profound impacts on businesses that have shown support for certain LGBTQ issues.
The beer brand Bud Light received significant backlash and calls for a boycott after making a commemorative can with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney on it earlier this spring.
In the week ending June 3, Bud Light's sales revenue was down 24% compared to the same week a year ago, Newsweek reports.
Target also was targeted by boycotts after the company put out pride displays that featured items such as “tuck-friendly” women’s swimsuits.
The retailer recently suffered nine straight days of losses on the heels of backlash from both sides of the issue and finished the week with another losing streak.
Entering last Friday, Target’s stock value had fallen roughly 3.1% in the five days prior after plummeting about 18.5% the last month.
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.