Casper representative wants to define gender in state statute

Jan. 10—CHEYENNE — Wyoming would join some other states in an attempt to legislate the definition of “man” and “woman,” if House Bill 50 is considered during the upcoming budget session.

Rep. Jeanette Ward, R-Casper, is the prime sponsor of the What is a Woman Act, which defines “man,” “woman,” “male,” “female,” “father” and “mother” based on biological terms. Ward said she assisted more than 60 births as a doula, and there was “no way a man can become a woman and complete the superhuman task that is childbirth.

“As we speak, boys are being allowed to use girls restrooms in Wyoming schools, a biological male has forced women from their sorority at (the University of Wyoming), and the federal government is seeking to force female inmates to share cells with men,” Ward told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle in an email. “We can’t waste even a second to protect women and stand for biological reality.”

The proposed legislation — co-sponsored by Ward and 15 other representatives — requires “separate accommodations for males and females” based on these biological definitions.

“A sitting justice of the U.S. Supreme Court cannot define what a woman is. A sitting federal judge in Wyoming has declined to do so, as well,” Ward wrote in the email.

Six sorority sisters sued their own organization, Kappa Kappa Gamma, after a transgender member was admitted into their chapter at UW last spring. The case has grabbed national attention and is currently being appealed in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after it was dismissed last August by U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson.

In his dismissal of the case, Johnson said KKG’s ability to define “woman” is a “bedrock right as a private, voluntary organization — and one this Court may not invade.”

“Clearly, and sadly, some legislative guidance is needed on this very basic biological fact,” Ward wrote.

Other states defining gender

Wyoming is the not first state to attempt to define “male” and “female” within its statute. Alabama attempted, but failed to pass its own What is a Woman Act last year, and Florida introduced a similar House bill last week.

Lawmakers in Kansas successfully passed a Senate bill last year that biologically defined “man” and “woman,” after members in both the state’s House and Senate overrode the governor’s veto in April.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming’s advocacy director, Antonio Serrano, criticized Ward’s attempt to define “man” and “woman” in statute, arguing the bill is “outdated” and “completely cuts transgender people out of the picture.”

“The ‘What is a Woman Act’ is trying to answer a question that is contextualized by far more than the biological gender norms that this bill is wanting to codify,” Serrano told the WTE in an email.

What critics have to say

Critics of Ward’s bill said there are bigger concerns in Wyoming, such as finding funding for public education and health care, that deserve more attention than defining gender.

Sen. Wendy Schuler, R-Evanston, who sponsored a bill two years ago that banned transgender athletes from joining school sports, said now was not the time to worry about social issues.

Wyomingites already have a good understanding of gender, she said, adding that her focus was on addressing more important issues, such as rising property taxes.

“I don’t think we need legislation for this,” Schuler told the WTE on Wednesday. “There’s so many other things that are just really, really important.”

Former state representative and current Wyoming Equality Executive Director Sara Burlingame went as far to say that this is “not a serious bill.”

“They’re wasting time during a budget year,” Burlingame said. “It’s a shame because we’ve got real problems in Wyoming, and I think Wyomingites deserve better than political theater.”

Ward responded to critics’ comments over the bill’s necessity.

“I am hopeful that my colleagues in the Wyoming Legislature will rally together in support of biological reality — any legislator willing to sacrifice the safety of women and girls for federal tax dollars should reexamine their priorities,” Ward wrote in an email.

Wyoming Family Alliance for Freedom founding board member Marcie Kindred said this bill, if passed, would “lessen the rights and bodily autonomy of very real people.”

“And that is transgender students,” Kindred said. “It’s not protecting anyone. It is negatively affecting a certain type of person.”

Hannah Shields is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s state government reporter. She can be reached at 307-633-3167 or [email protected]. You can follow her on X @happyfeet004.

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