Teton County is exploring possible nondiscrimination measures, responding to concerns raised last week about potential LGBTQ discrimination in the departure of library Director Oscar Gittemeier, who is transgender.
“I personally want to make sure that we explore all the options,” commission Chair Natalia D. Macker said Monday.
Jackson Hole writer Andrew Munz, who is gay and spoke for himself, said he thought Gittemeier’s departure raised enough questions “to justify” the discussion.
“I think it’s important to continue that conversation,” Munz said. “If Teton County became the first county in all of Wyoming to adopt a countywide nondiscrimination policy ... that could start making waves.”
The Teton County Board of County Commissioners has, in the past, passed a resolution condemning hate. The board — then a separate slate of elected officials — did so in 2001 after Sept. 11, condemning both the terrorist attacks and resulting “increase in discrimination, threats and violence against Arabs, Muslims” and other minority groups.
The resolution also said that Teton County “citizens pride themselves on diversity and respect for people of all races, faiths, ethnicities and sexual orientations.”
Commissioners mulled the idea of a similar resolution, more of a statement of community values than law, to meet the present moment.
The issue at hand is protecting members of the LGBTQ community, a concern members of the public raised at a Dec. 7 joint information meeting of both town and county elected officials.
With all the secrecy around former library Director Oscar Gittemeier’s departure, some attendees who spoke at the Dec. 7 meeting asked whether his gender identity had played a role in his dismissal.
Some called it a “firing,” though officials have said little about his exit. Shortly before he left, Gittemeier had inquired about advocating for a countywide nondiscrimination ordinance similar to the town of Jackson’s. That ordinance, adopted in 2018, prohibits throughout town discrimination based on “sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”
“The limited information that Jackson’s queer community does have regarding recent occurrences at the library would lead any reasonable person to assume that an injustice has occurred,” Adrian Croke said last week.
That fear could be addressed in part, some suggested, by expanding the town of Jackson’s ordinance to the county.
The county does not share the town’s power to pass ordinances, but Deputy County Attorney Keith Gingery told the News&Guide that the commission can do other things: craft an internal county policy, make a statement through a resolution such as the one in 2001, or create a new rule, which would affect the general public and have legal teeth, through a separate resolution.
Munz would like to see the town and county unified.
“We passed this as a nondiscrimination ordinance within Jackson limits that protects people. ... but not everybody lives in town,” he said. “Unifying the community beyond town limits would be my ultimate goal.”
All five commissioners have said they’re interested in considering a nondiscrimination measure of some kind, most wanting to see their options. Four did so during Monday’s voucher meeting.
“I would not be opposed to looking at something,” Commissioner Mark Barron said at the meeting. “We should have no tolerance for hate or discrimination.”
Commissioner Luther Propst did not address the issue during the meeting but later said he was interested in action, “more so if it includes specific and tangible steps to make Teton County more inclusive and equitable rather than merely a grandiose but meaningless statement.”
The commission will likely hear its options and evaluate possible actions later in December, or early next year.