By Ryan Grim
Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi addressed students at Greybull High School last Thursday, and a sophomore asked him what he had done to help Wyoming live up a bit more to its nickname, the Equality State. He responded with this: “We always say that in Wyoming you can be just about anything you want to be, as long as you don’t push it in somebody’s face. I know a guy who wears a tutu and goes to bars on Friday night and is always surprised that he gets in fights. Well, he kind of asks for it. That’s the way that he winds up with that kind of problem.”
Yes, that’s the message he shared with high school students — and middle school students, who were also there. And this in Wyoming, the state where Matthew Shepard was beaten to death.
A Wyoming reader of this newsletter heard about the comments and tipped me off. (I didn’t launch this email to keep in touch with sources from all over the country, but that’s been an accidental and happy byproduct of it.) A local reporter from the Greybull Standard was there but hadn’t written anything yet, because their paper only publishes weekly; nevertheless he was kind enough to confirm everything for me.
After our story went up, Enzi apologized, which is a good thing. But he apologized to people who took offense, and that kind of misses the point: the comments are wrong not because they’re necessarily offensive, but because they appear to condone violence agains LGBT folks, or at least it explain it away as understandable. I mean, yes, that’s offensive, but it’s so much more than just offensive. Here’s my story with Amanda Terkel, where you can read his full comments and a long statement he provided us. (And here’s the story from the Greybull Standard, which decided to publish early. Read all the way to the bottom for their reporting on his comments.)