Democrats in Wyoming are calling for a Republican state lawmaker to resign after she reportedly compared homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia during a conversation with a group of high school students.
State Sen. Lynn Hutchings of Cheyenne has disputed the students’ account of the talk. The lawmaker said in a Tuesday statement that she had merely “intended to highlight the vagueness and subjectivity of the term ‘sexual orientation’” and had “at no time compared” being LGBTQ with bestiality or pedophilia.
The 10 students, all of whom are members of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Cheyenne’s Central High School, met with Hutchings on Feb. 1. The students had been meeting with state legislators and lobbyists that day to advocate for HB 230, a state bill that would ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
According to a complaint letter penned by LGBTQ advocacy group Wyoming Equality and addressed to Drew Perkins, the Republican president of the Wyoming State Senate, Hutchings told the students that she was unfamiliar with the bill’s language, prompting the teens to explain the purpose of the legislation.
Hutchings allegedly replied: “If my sexual orientation was to have sex with all of the men in there and I had sex with all of the women in there and then they brought their children and I had sex with all of them and then brought their dogs in and I had sex with them, should I be protected for my sexual orientation?”
Wyoming Equality said the students then “sought to clarify the bill’s intent only to be rebuffed by Senator Hutchings’ repeated interruptions. As the conversation came to a close, Senator Hutchings then motioned to fist bump the students and embraced one of them.”
The advocacy group said the students were “deeply hurt and disturbed” by Hutchings’ remarks.
“The students’ sentiment was exacerbated especially after Senator Hutchings hypothetically recounted the idea of sexually engaging with children then physically engaged with the students,” the group wrote.
Refuting the allegations, Hutchings said in her statement that she had “made an attempt to best engage several of [the students] by asking four rhetorical questions.” She’d meant for those questions to highlight how the term sexual orientation “can be defined in so many ways,” she said.
“It is unfortunate, but I now recognize that my attempts at meaningful dialogue on this specific issue did not come across as I intended,” Hutchings wrote. “I believe I treated these students kindly. I want to make it clear that my conversation was not intended to demean these students.”
Joe Barbuto, chairman of the Wyoming Democratic Party, lambasted Hutchings’ alleged remarks, calling them “indefensible, insensitive, and repugnant.”
He called for the lawmaker’s immediate resignation.
Top Republican state lawmakers, including Perkins, said Monday that they are looking into the students’ complaint against Hutchings.
“In Wyoming, we believe in respect, civility and compassion. Here in the Wyoming Legislature, it is no different. We take the concerns raised on behalf of these students very seriously. Absolutely no one should be made to feel dismissed, disrespected or degraded,” the state’s GOP leadership said in a statement.
“Let us be clear, the message from the Wyoming Senate is this ― all Wyoming citizens are welcome here. We want to hear from you. We need to hear from you. We are blessed to have a citizen legislature in Wyoming, and that means the voices of every single person should be heard and considered,” they added.