By JEFF TOLMAN
I was born in Greybull, Wyoming and lived there until I was 14. There is still much pride in me about my state of birth. I still follow the university’s sports teams and have friends and relatives in Wyoming.
The state motto is “The Equality State.” The territorial government gave women the right to vote in 1869 and appointed the first female Justice of the Peace in 1870. In 1924, state voters elected the first female governor. I am very proud of these watermarks.
Fast forward to April 2017.
A story from The Greybull Standard reported that U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi spoke at the local high school. A 10th-grade student asked what specifically the senator was doing regarding the LGBTQ community to help Wyoming live up to its nickname as The Equality State.
A fair, appropriate and necessary question.
According to the paper, the senator responded, “I know a man who wears a tutu and goes to bars on Friday night and is always surprised when he gets in fights. Well, he kind of asks for it. That’s the way he winds up with that kind of problem.” He then continued, “Everything can’t be done by law.”
WHAT?! This from a United States senator — from The Equality State! His response so profoundly troubled me that I emailed his office my disapproval and disappointment.
First, the answer was not an answer at all to the appropriate query from the student, a future constituent.
Second, his response was ignorant.
Third, is that the attitude with which he wants the young men and women he was speaking to take forward in life? I certainly hope not.
Finally, it is everything we don’t need or want in national leadership. Particularly now.
As expected, when the story came out nationally, Sen. Enzi emailed that no offense was intended and he apologized to anyone who has taken offense. The release indicated that “he advocates nothing but respect and civil treatment for members of the LGBT community.” Sure. Who wouldn’t read that into his response?
Perhaps the state motto should now be “The Equality State — if you are like me.”
Or “The Equality State — if you think like me.”
Or “The Equality State — a century ago.”
Or “The Equality State — as long as I don’t have to deal with your minority views.”
A great disappointment this was at a time we need national civility and unity. I hope his constituents feel the same disdain.
I had the opportunity to speak at the Wyoming State Bar Convention in 1997 when Mr. Enzi was running his first campaign for the Senate. His motto was “NZ2DC.” Perhaps next time he runs, the campaign slogan should be “NZ2PhD” — as in, to a counselor to help him learn tolerance and kindness.
Tolerance and kindness … attributes we hope to teach to, and share with, young people looking to us for leadership and answers to their important questions.
— Jeff Tolman is a lawyer, municipal court judge and periodic Kitsap News Group columnist.
Copyright Jeff Tolman 2017. All rights reserved.