Freedom Caucus Blasts 19 Republicans For Killing Bill To Define Genders

The Wyoming Freedom Caucus went on the offensive Thursday after 19 Republicans voted to kill a bill that officially defines what it is to be “female” and “male” in Wyoming as a person’s biological sex at birth.

Leo Wolfson

February 16, 20245 min read

Wyoming Freedom Caucus members Jeanette Ward, left, and John Bear. The Freedom Caucus called out 19 House Republicans for voting against Ward's What is a Woman Act.
Wyoming Freedom Caucus members Jeanette Ward, left, and John Bear. The Freedom Caucus called out 19 House Republicans for voting against Ward's What is a Woman Act. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

The Wyoming Freedom Caucus is naming names.

On Thursday, the group put out a press release calling out 19 Wyoming House Republicans who voted against Casper Republican state Rep. Jeanette Ward’s What Is A Woman Act.

House Bill 50 would have defined people’s sex as male or female by their biology at birth under Wyoming law, and precluded special accommodations for people who identify otherwise. Among other things, HB 50 would have required people to use bathrooms, locker rooms and other facilities as determined by their biological sex at birth.

“Today, 20 so-called ‘Republicans’ in the Wyoming House voted to kill a bill to provide legal, biological definitions of ‘male’ and ‘female,’” the Freedom Caucus wrote in its Thursday press release. Although the Freedom Caucus pointed to 20 Republicans who didn’t vote for the bill, the actual tally was 19.

In its press release, the caucus lists the 24 representatives who voted against HB 50, the 19 Republicans and all five Democratic members of the House:

  • Ryan Berger, R-Evanston.

  • Donald Burkhart, R-Rawlins.

  • Andrew Byron, R-Jackson.

  • Forrest Chadwick, R-Evansville.

  • Ken Chestek, D-Laramie.

  • John Eklund, R-Cheyenne.

  • Steve Harshman, R-Casper.

  • Bill Henderson, R-Cheyenne.

  • Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander.

  • JT Larson, R-Rock Springs.

  • Sandy Newsome, R-Cody.

  • Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne.

  • Tony Niemiec, R-Green River.

  • David Northrup, R-Powell

  • Ember Oakley, R-Riverton,

  • Jerry Obermueller, R-Casper

  • Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie.

  • Trey Sherwood, D-Laramie.

  • Liz Storer, D-Jackson.

  • Tom Walters, R-Casper.

  • Cody Wylie, R-Rock Springs.

  • Mike Yin, D-Jackson.

  • Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne.

  • Dave Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne.

During a legislative budget session, a two-thirds majority is required to introduce any non-budget legislation. The What Is a Woman Act only passed 37-24, falling five votes short of the threshold needed to advance.

What The Bill 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.

“It gives dignity to womanhood by protecting it,” Ward said on the House floor. “This bill has become necessary because a biological male has pushed Wyoming women from their Wyoming sorority in their Wyoming university.”

The situation Ward refers to is a 2023 lawsuit in which six members of the University of Wyoming chapter of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority sued the organization over its induction of a transgender member.

“It’s absolutely incredible to me that in a supermajority Republican Legislature, we can't protect Wyoming high school girls, particularly in Laramie, from having their private spaces invaded by men,” Ward told Cowboy State Daily.


Larson said Ward’s bill was too narrowly tailored to the sorority situation.

“I feel like it doesn’t do what she thinks it’s going to do,” he said. “I think it’s a move to try and address the sorority issue. The sorority is a private association. They can decide who their members are.”

He and fellow Rock Springs Republican Rep. Cody Wylie said the Freedom Caucus is posturing on certain political issues to draw attention to itself.

“I don’t believe that even though it’s an election year, representatives should bandsanding on social issues,” Wylie said. “Especially ones that don’t do much and will take up precious time when we have a very little of it.”

Wylie said he didn’t run any personal bills this session to focus on the biennial budget.

Similarly, Larson said his two main focuses for the session are the budget and property taxes.

“I think that there are other issues that we need to be focusing on that would serve our people a lot better,” he said. “I would rather solve the big, main Wyoming issues that everyone is impacted by.”

Northrup had a similar sentiment about his vote.

“With all the haggling over the budget that is going on now and in the future, we really need to do our constitutional obligation and pass a budget,” he said. “This bill belongs in the main session.”

Although Larson believes there are some transgender issues that could be dealt with in the future by the Legislature, Byron believes it’s a non-starter.

“It’s not my job to legislate for issues that don’t exist,” he said.

Campaign Tricks

Ward also brought up House Bill 63, legislation that would have prevented minors from receiving transgender surgeries in most scenarios. This legislation was defeated Wednesday when the Freedom Caucus and the five House Democrats teamed up against it.

“It's noteworthy that the sponsors of House Bill 63 would vote against my bill to enshrine biological reality into law,” she said. “It's proof that House Bill 63 was simply a do-nothing campaign trick.”

Dan Zwonitzer said he would have voted to support the What is A Woman Act, but by time his name was called at the end of the alphabetical roll, it was clear Ward’s bill wasn’t going to pass.

“She voted for nurses and tried to help me out yesterday,” he said. “I would have given her an intro vote.”

Leo Wolfson can be reached at

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter