Having lived in Wyoming for most of their lives, Patty and David are deeply committed to their family and their Mormon faith. Together, they are raising three young boys in Laramie.
Patty works as a psychiatric technician at a hospital and David is a chemist. But when they are not working, there’s nothing more important than spending time together as a family.
“Family is first priority, above work, above external relationships,” explains David. “Family is a completion of myself,” adds Patty.
As parents, Patty and David are working to instill values that they hold dear in their own children. Values like freedom, faith, fairness and the importance of working hard. It is those same values that have led Patty and David to become strong advocates for passing a non-discrimination law protecting gay and transgender workers from discrimination in their home state – and they believe that no matter where you live, you should be protected from discrimination.
For Patty, her strong belief in freedom and fairness for all began at an early age. “I have a personal concept of loving people unconditionally no matter what the situation is. I can remember from high school and junior high and having friends that were gay and lesbian and being able to support them in whatever fashion that they needed. I never had a moment that was defining for me, it’s just always been, and that’s how I’ve always been and how I try to live my life still.”
But for David, his views were built over time as he got to know gay and transgender people in his own life. He reflects, “growing up, I followed most social norms… but when I continued to educate myself, it was a process over one or two years where I learned and changed my view about equality for other people… Part of that education was through taking philosophy classes, where i learned about something other than myself.”
While Patty and David are strong adherents of the Mormon faith, they do not see their religious beliefs and their support for non-discrimination protections for gay and transgender workers in conflict. In fact, their views are very much in line with their religious beliefs.
“Faith is about equality. We’re taught to love one another and if we applied that to everyday life there would be more equality.”
David adds, “One of the fundamental teachings of the Mormon Church is to apply our faith to ourselves, and at the same time allow other people to apply their beliefs to themselves. And that’s the core of my beliefs, to allow other people to believe what they want to believe… and that enhances my beliefs, it does not contradict them.”
But while David points out that there are some in the Mormon Church who do not share the Turner’s views, he is confident that as equality rapidly progresses in his state and around the country, more and more people are growing to support fundamental protections and freedom for gay and transgender people.
“I have had long conversations with our two closest friends who are gay about prejudices they have experienced in their lives. Our talks confirm that prejudice exists, but I would characterize this prejudice as the exception rather than the norm. Both friends seem to find Wyoming a welcoming and respectful place to live… This sociality is in contrast with what I described earlier as a social upbringing of prejudice, intolerance, and general ignorance toward the LGBT community. This dichotomy illustrates the progress my generation is making. This progression is exciting for me to see.”
But despite these recent gains, the Turners agree that it’s past time for the law to protect LGBT people from discrimination so that everyone can have the same opportunity to work hard, make a living and provide for their families—regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
David has seen firsthand the importance of non-discrimination protections, as a close friend of his was fired from his job because of his religious beliefs.
“We had a close friend who was fired because of his religion… but because Wyoming law prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of religion, he was able to defend himself against this unfair treatment. It’s scary to think that my friends who are gay or transgender don’t have that protection.”
Patty, whose best friend is gay and also has a coworker who is a lesbian agrees, saying it would be very unfair if her coworker was unfairly discriminated against for reasons unrelated to her job performance, simply because of her sexual orientation.
“I think people have a right to find employment where they live and feel safe in that employment,” says David. But because Wyoming does not protect LGBT workers, and there are currently no federal protections, many gay and transgender people have to live in fear that they could be discriminated against, just because of who they are.
The Turners originally shared their story with Protect Working Wyoming, a statewide, bipartisan effort to secure non-discrimination protections there.