Tom Lubnau: Legislating Private Parts Is Popular This Legislative Session

Columnist Tom Lubnau writes, "One has to be curious whether there is a public demand for the legislature to regulate private parts, or whether legislators are simply creating straw issues upon which to campaign."

Tom Lubnau

February 13, 20247 min read

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Legislators traditionally use their time as representatives of the people of Wyoming advancing the interests of the people in the state.  Those concerns usually involve education, the economy, punishing crime and making government efficient.  

While the Wyoming Constitution requires the legislature to reflect the morals of the people of the state, it is surprising the number of bills concerning our private parts, using our private parts, labeling our private parts, when we can show our private parts, and the consequences of use of private parts. 

Regulating private parts used to not be as big an issue as protecting jobs, providing a quality education or making sure we were free from crime. 

Wyoming Constitution Article 7 Section 20, charges the legislature with enforcing the public morals.  It says:

As the health and morality of the people are essential to their well-being, and to the peace and permanence of the state, it shall be the duty of the legislature to protect and promote these vital interests by such measures for the encouragement of temperance and virtue, and such restrictions upon vice and immorality of every sort, as are deemed necessary to the public welfare.

For the 133 plus years Wyoming has been a state, the legislature has been passing statutes dealing with morality. And, as the opinions of society change as times change, the statutes change.  

 Sometimes, the issue changes with the times.  

During the formation of the state, Wyoming statues on morality were very strict.  The 1910 Wyoming Statutes took a very strict view of what happened between adults in the bedroom.   Let me share an example, but if you are easily offended, quit reading. 

Quit reading now.  But, if you are still reading, remember this is the actual text of Wyoming law from §7206 of the 1910 code:

Whoever commits the abominable and detestable crime against nature, by having carnal knowledge of a man or beast: or who being a male, carnally knows any man or woman through the anus, or in any other manner contrary to nature; and whoever entices, allures, instigates or aids any person under the age of twenty-one years to commit masturbation or self-pollution, is guilty of sodomy, and shall be imprisoned in the penitentiary not more than five years or may be imprisoned in the county jail for not more than twelve months.

This statute was repealed and replaced in the  disco era when the State of Wyoming determined that whatever happened in people’s bedrooms was no one’s business. 

It seems, now, there is a trend to sponsor legislation to invite the State of Wyoming back into the bedroom.

One has to wonder if regulating bedroom conduct is the pressing issue of the day, or if there is some other motive such as creating a campaign issue for the election season, that is driving the legislation.  In other words, how many people do you meet every day whose biggest concern is lack of regulation of private parts? 

Here are a few of the bills pending in front of the legislature dealing with regulation of private parts.

HB 50 is called the What is a Woman Act. The bill, as many of  these are, is sponsored by the Freedom Caucus. Essentially, the bill says if you were born with only X Chromosomes, you are a female for life.  If you were born with a Y chromosome, you are a male for life. 

The bills says the bathroom you get to use is the one defined by your chromosomes at birth.  The bill also proposes to statutorily define terms, like a dictionary.  

The act goes so far as to define "woman" and "girl" as human females, and the terms "man" and "boy" as human males. 

It also defines  "Mother" to mean a parent of the female sex and "Father" to mean a parent of the male sex. The state defining the terms people can use seems strangely reminiscent of an Orwell novel.

HB 68 repeals the obscenity exception for bona fide school, college, university, museum or public library activities or in the course of employment of such an organization. 

Obscenity is defined in Wyoming law, as  material which the average person would find: (A) Applying contemporary community standards, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;  (B) Applying contemporary community standards, depicts or describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way; and  (C) Taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. 

Try to define the specific conduct prohibited by the definition. It’s a pretty vague standard upon which to base someone’s career. 

If the bill passes, every school, college, university, museum public employee will have to weigh the costs of having books, movies, photos or other representations or descriptions of private parts and use of private parts as part of their educational materials.   If these folks, even private folks, have these materials available to other people, they face a year in prison and a one thousand dollar fine.

HB 88 will make it illegal to “publicly communicate” obscene material.  According to the bill, public communication means  to display, post, exhibit, give away or vocalize material in such a way that the material may be readily and distinctly perceived by the public at large by normal unaided vision or hearing. 

I wonder what the folks at HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, and your local movie theater think about showing R rated movies if this bill passes.  One has to wonder if the diner scene from “When Harry Met Sally” is covered by this act.

HB 76, sponsored by the Democrats in the legislature, makes it illegal to interfere with a woman’s right to an abortion if the fetus is not viable, or in cases of rape, incest or threat to the life of the mother. 

Given the composition of the legislature, this bill is unlikely to see a glimmer of light this session.  The bill appears to be aimed at creating a campaign issue for this election.

Even though chemical abortions are illegal in Wyoming, HB 137 requires a pregnant mother to receive an ultrasound prior to receiving a chemical abortion “in order to provide the pregnant woman the opportunity to view the active ultrasound of the unborn child and hear the heartbeat of the unborn child if the heartbeat is audible.” 

This bill is an example of the legislature intruding on the doctor-patient relationship.

One has to be curious whether there is a public demand for the legislature to regulate private parts, or whether legislators are simply creating straw issues upon which to campaign. 

Wyoming folks have a fierce tradition of telling the State of Wyoming to butt out of their private lives.  It will be interesting to see how these intrusive pieces of legislation fare in the 2024 session, and how they are marketed in the upcoming election. 

One can just imagine the 2024 campaign mailers showing up in our mailboxes that say, “Legislator X voted in favor of child molestation and pornography” when in actuality the legislator voted to keep the State of Wyoming out of our bedrooms. 

It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Tom Lubnau served in the Wyoming Legislature from 2005 - 2015 and is a former Speaker of the House.

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Tom Lubnau