The tension was palpable near the end of an unusually long and emotional Casper City Council session on Wednesday night.
Months of work by local PFLAG activists to craft a resolution welcoming LGBTQ people without discrimination to Casper was now in the hands of the council.
After over two hours of public comments for and against, and after five of his fellow councilmen spoke, it was now Dallas Laird’s turn to decide. He was still on the fence, and struggling.
Laird had drafted his own resolution which leaned away from specifically supporting LGBTQ people. “I wish we didn’t have any labels for people,” he said at one point.
“When I look down here, I just see a bunch of good Wyoming people,” said Laird. “I’ve probably walked by all of you at one time or another.”
“I’ve decided that I have to seek to do the right thing,” said Laird. “It’s what we all have to do.”
As Laird’s voice quivered and his eyes welled, he paused to compose himself.
“I think God’s telling me to vote for it.”
Ultimately the vote was 6-3 in favor of the resolution.
“He reached into his heart and took a really brave step,” said Rev. Dee Lundberg after the session. Lundberg was one of the main organizers of the resolution, which ultimately attracted over 100 local businesses to support the cause.
A resolution has no legal standing, but in a state with no LGBTQ laws its supporters believe it sends a powerful message.
“It’s always ‘us vs. them,'” said local activist and business owner Mallory Pollock during public comments. “In Wyoming, we can’t afford to be divided because ‘us’ and ‘them’ are guaranteed to share some sort of weird Wyoming connection.”
People speaking out against the resolution expressed concerns that local Christian businesses could face a backlash for speaking out.
“Are our citizens OK with the political pressure that will be applied to them,” said Bob Brechtel during comments.
Though some comments were pointed, everyone gathered stayed calm though the long session.
“I was touched that it remained civil the whole time,” said Lundberg. “These are blessings.”