UPDATE: Enzi Apologizes for Remarks on LGBT Issues
UPDATE: The Wyoming Equality organization reports that they heard from Senator Enzi in the wake of this incident. Outreach Coordinator Sara Burlingame said this in a release Tuesday...
"Senator Enzi has since publicly apologized. Today, he took the time to personally call our office and apologize for his remarks. Wyoming is unique in our ability to sit down and speak to one another and find common sense solutions. We look forward to continuing this conversation when Senator Enzi returns to the state. Together, we can meaningfully address bullying and represent the values Wyoming should be known for: our fairness and live and let live lifestyle."
UPDATE: Senator Mike Enzi this afternoon, apologized for earlier remarks on LGBT issues made at a gathering of students in Greybull. Here is the Senator's updated statement...
“I believe all individuals should be treated with respect. I do not believe that anyone should be bullied, intimidated or attacked because of their beliefs. Wyoming’s population is made so great by its mixture – and tolerance – of differing value and belief systems. Our live and let live approach is one of the great aspects of our state. It is important that our students learn that the importance of respecting all people and how it is incumbent on those in the communities we live in to treat others as you would want to be treated. It is such a simple lesson -- it is never permissible to hurt another. Hatred in any form is destructive to the very foundation upon which our society is built. No person, including LGBT individuals, should feel unsafe in their community.”
“My message was intended specifically to be about promoting respect and tolerance toward each other. I hope if people look at the entirety of my speech, they will understand that. I regret a poor choice of words during part of my presentation. None of us is infallible and I apologize to anyone who has taken offense. No offense was intended. Quite the opposite in fact, and so I ask for your understanding as well.”
Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi is dealing with the blowback from a comment made to a High School gathering in Greybull.
When asked by a student what he is doing to support the LGBT community in Wyoming, he reportedly said it is fine to be a member of that group, but not to be surprised if being too public about it leads to being picked on.
K2 News spoke with Mathew Burciaga of the Greybull Standard newspaper, who was covering the event. He said Enzi then launched into an anecdote about a man who wears a pink tutu into a bar and is astonished that he keeps getting into fights.
Burciaga confirmed that Enzi then said the fellow, "...kind of asks for it."
The reporter said that Enzi told the students that the law can't solve every societal issue, but that he was open to suggestions from them about solutions.
Burciaga also quoted Enzi as saying that, in essence, in Wyoming you can be whoever you want to be if you don't push it in people's faces.
The story has now made the national press, and K2 News Radio contacted the Senator’s office.
The Senator's Press Secretary Max D'Onofrio said, "When speaking to the students at Greybull High School and Middle School last week, Senator Enzi was asked about federal protections for LGBT individuals, and he spoke to the students about the importance of respecting other people and how it is incumbent on those in the communities we live in to treat others as you would want to be treated."
D'onofrio added, "He also talked about how federal laws are not the answer to every problem and that people learning to live together on their own has a better and more lasting effect than policies made and enforced from Washington. He talked about how many Wyoming folks take a live and let live approach to life, but we need to be conscious that everyone may not react the same way to differing value and belief systems. He advocates nothing but respect and civil treatment for members of the LGBT community."
"Senator Enzi believes all individuals should be treated with respect. He does not believe that anyone should be bullied, intimidated or attacked because of their beliefs. This is a hot button issue and emotions can run high, but no one should take his remarks out of context or misconstrue them to mean anything but advocacy of kindness toward our fellow citizens."
And here is Senator Enzi's official statement on the incident.
“I believe all individuals should be treated with respect. I do not believe that anyone should be bullied, intimidated or attacked because of their beliefs. Wyoming’s population is made so great by its mixture – and tolerance – of differing value and belief systems. Our live and let live approach is one of the great aspects of our state. It is important that our students learn that the importance of respecting all people and how it is incumbent on those in the communities we live in to treat others as you would want to be treated. It is such a simple lesson ― it is never permissible to hurt another. Hatred in any form is destructive to the very foundation upon which our society is built.”
Obviously, the issue is a sensitive one in Wyoming in the wake of the Matthew Shepard murder in 1998.
K2 News contacted the Shepard Foundation and got this official statement.
“Sen. Enzi’s comments are exactly the kind of hateful remarks we are working against in Wyoming and beyond. To tell a person that they are ‘asking for it’ is the same kind of harmful rhetoric people use to disqualify the claims of sexual assault victims. It’s the same kind of rhetoric that keeps up to 61% of hate crime victims from reporting because they are afraid of not being believed while also having to be fearful of being re-victimized by those in power, who should be defending their rights. The Matthew Shepard Foundation will continue to fight against this kind of hate speech as long as it continues.”
The Wyoming Democratic Party has also issued a statement on Enzi's remarks. Party Chair Joe Barbuto said...
“Senator Enzi’s comment was not just inappropriate, it was ugly and indicative of a kind of backwards thinking that has no place in today’s society. It only makes matters worse that his remark was made to a group of young students. Let me be clear: no one deserves or is asking to be punished for simply being who they are. The Senator should already know that.
At the very least, Senator Enzi owes an apology -- to the student whose question solicited the response, to the LGBTQ community, and his constituents. Regardless of party affiliation, most of us can agree that such a comment is hardly reflective of Wyoming values. And if the Senator really feels that way, that a person is ‘asking for it’ by being themselves, perhaps it’s time for him and voters to reevaluate whether that sort of mindset really belongs in the United States Senate.”