CHEYENNE, WY. | By MEAD GRUVER, (AP) — A Wyoming state lawmaker accused of comparing homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia while talking to a group of high school students denied Tuesday that she made any such comparison but now said she faces “racial slurs” and threats as a result.
Republican Sen. Lynn Hutchings said in a statement she didn’t intend to demean the Cheyenne Central High School students and believes she treated them kindly. “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 said in the statement.
Hutchings, who is black, added that she has been attacked with “racial slurs, character assassination, profanity and threats” since the incident became public last week.
Democratic officials, including state party Chairman Joe Barbuto, are calling on Hutchings, of Cheyenne, to resign over the incident Feb. 1.
The LGBTQ advocacy group Wyoming Equality filed a complaint with Senate leaders, saying Hutchings disturbed the students, some of whom identify as LGBTQ. The leaders said in a statement Monday that complaints about lawmakers and proceedings that follow are confidential, but they would vet and address such complaints.
The 10 students with their school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club had asked Hutchings about a bill that would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation in state hiring. They met with her in an office building housing the state Senate and House during the legislative session while the state Capitol undergoes renovation.
Hutchings said in her statement she posed four “rhetorical questions” to the students to highlight what she described as the “vagueness and subjectivity of the term ‘sexual orientation.’ ”
Wyoming Equality, in its letter Senate President Drew Perkins, R-Casper, quoted Hutchings as saying: “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?”
Hutchings didn’t immediately respond to a request Tuesday to confirm or deny whether she said that. The encounter wasn’t recorded, said state Rep. Sara Burlingame, D-Cheyenne, who is taking leave as executive director of Wyoming Equality during the legislative session.
The group’s priority is to protect the students, said Shayna Lonoaea-Alexander, spokeswoman and board member for the group. “We believe our kids, and we also just want to elevate the conversation so that we’re not so focused on what politicians say to distract and divide us,” Lonoaea-Alexander said.