Wyoming lawmakers tabled a bill last week that would have created a bias-motivated crimes law in the state, commonly referred to as a hate crime law.
House Bill 218 was postponed indefinitely on March 12 by members of the Wyoming House Judiciary Committee. The bill would have allowed a court to take into account a suspect’s targeting of an individual because of that person’s actual or perceived race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, or disability. While lawmakers tabled the proposal, they did express support for working on the bill in an interim committee that would meet over the spring and summer. An interim committee must still be named by legislative leaders to allow that work to continue.
Wyoming is one of three remaining states with no laws against bias-motivated crimes on its books. The other states are Arkansas and South Carolina. Last summer, after Georgia passed a hate crimes law, a group of businesses and advocacy groups, including ADL, began meeting to chart a course forward in Wyoming. The Freedom From Hate Coalition, which is leading the efforts, now has 30 members in addition to ADL.
Wyoming’s bias-motivated crimes bill was sponsored by Representative Patrick Sweeney, a Republican from Casper. There were 13 additional co-sponsors of the bi-partisan legislation. In addition to taking into account the suspect’s intentional targeting of a victim, the bill would have required law enforcement to report hate crimes and receive training on bias-motivated crimes.