When lawmakers convene for their 2024 session Feb. 12, along with tackling Wyoming’s biennial budget, they’ll also consider legislation that would define people’s sex as male or female by their biology at birth and preclude special accommodations for people who “identify” otherwise.
State Rep. Jeanette Ward, R-Casper, is proposing the What is a Woman Act, a bill that, among other things, require people to use bathrooms, locker rooms and other facilities as determined by their biological sex at birth.
Ward confirmed to Cowboy State Daily that the proposed law would apply to spaces “where separate sex-segregated facilities are maintained, like locker rooms, restrooms, prisons,” and that it would preclude males from entering female-only spaces and vice-versa. Also specifically mentioned in the legislation is domestic violence and rape crisis centers.
The bill would officially define in Wyoming law what constitutes a female and a male and would restrict these definitions to a person’s biological sex at birth.
Transgender access to gender-defined spaces has become a growing discussion in America, extending to issues like athletics, bathrooms and organizational membership.
“I wish it weren’t necessary that in 2024, our culture has so regressed that we no longer recognize what was fact just a few years ago,” Ward said.
A dozen states have laws on the books restricting transgender use of bathrooms in some way.
Only one state, Florida, bans transgender people from using bathrooms and facilities inconsistent with their biological sex in all schools, colleges and government-owned buildings and spaces. Florida law also makes it a criminal offense for transgender people to use opposite bathrooms or facilities based on “identity.”
Although it doesn’t include any criminal offense as written, Ward’s bill would apply to any facility in Wyoming that offers separate male and female spaces. The enforceability of the law, particularly for private businesses, is unclear.
State Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, is against the legislation.
“Another piece of legislation that inserts the government into our personal lives to interfere with our freedoms,” is how Provenza described Ward’s bill. “I’m not comfortable telling the hard-working people in our communities who they are and how they must act, and I don’t think the people of Wyoming want that either.”
In a Wednesday press release, Ward said the biological science of what constitutes a woman “is under attack.” She expects criticism that her bill panders to a national agenda and is unnecessary.
In response to these points, Ward referenced an ongoing lawsuit between six members of a University of Wyoming sorority that have sued their parent organization over the induction of a transgender member. She also mentioned hearing “first-hand accounts” that girls are being forced to share their spaces with boys at some Wyoming high schools.
Wyoming lawmakers passed a law last year that prohibits transgender girls from participating in female sports.
“Not only does my bill reinforce the norm that biological sex is a reality, it protects women from being forced to share their private spaces with men, a goal that would have been deemed laudable — not hateful — just a few years ago,” she said.
What It Does
Under the proposed legislation, the female gender would be defined as a person whose biological reproductive system is developed to produce ova and or who exhibits XX chromosomes and does not exhibit a Y chromosome.
The male gender would be restricted to a person whose biological reproductive system is developed to fertilize the ova of a female and or who exhibits XY chromosomes or exhibits a Y chromosome.
“Wyoming’s proudest accomplishment, being the first government in the world to protect the right of women to vote, means nothing if male and female mean nothing,” Ward said. “Title IX means nothing if women mean nothing.”
The law would further go on to define the terms “mother” and “father” based on the biological definition of male and female. In short, the bill would prevent transgender people from being recognized legally by anything other than their biological sex.
It also would require Wyoming public schools to tabulate their enrollment data based on the bill’s definitions of male and female.
Although conservative commentator Matt Walsh in 2022 put out a movie about gender and identity and transgender issues called “What Is a Woman?” Ward said the similarity in the title of her bill and the movie was a coincidence.
“It's a question in society that everyone is now asking,” she said.
Provenza disagrees and believes there are much more important issues the Legislature could be dealing with.
“I’m eager to go back to Cheyenne to focus on solving real problems like affordable access to health care and making sure our families are taken care of,” she said. “This legislation is offensive to the real issues our communities are facing.”
Certain lawmakers have opposed sweeping bills like Ward’s out of the concern they will risk Wyoming’s access to federal funding.
Ward admits her bill could put the state’s federal funding at risk, but believes Wyoming “cannot bend the knee” to President Joe Biden’s administration. The Biden administration has issued a policy requiring federal prisons to consider safety when deciding where to house transgender people in prison, and more generally supports transgender issues.
“No amount of money is worth selling science and sanity down the drain,” Ward said. “After all, the Code of the West reminds us that some things are not for sale.”
Cosponsoring the bill are Reps. Bill Allemand, R-Casper; Abby Angelos, R-Gillette; John Bear, R-Gillette; Jeremy Haroldson, R-Wheatland; Ben Hornok, R-Cheyenne; Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan; Tony Locke, R-Casper; Chip Neiman, R-Hulett; Pepper Ottman, R-Riverton; Ken Pendergraft, R-Sheridan; Sarah Penn, R-Riverton; Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody; Allen Slagle, R-Newcastle; Scott Smith, R-Lingle; and Tomi Strock, R-Douglas.
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.