Wyoming House Speaker issues statement over social media post

Published: Apr. 3, 2023 at 9:25 PM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (RELEASE) - Speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives Albert Sommers issued the following statement regarding a social media post from Minority Whip Rep. Karlee Provenza:

“Yesterday, I was made aware of a post on social media by Representative Karlee Provenza which appeared to advocate for the use of firearms to “Protect Trans Folks Against Fascists and Bigots.” The implication that violence is necessary to solve political differences has no place in the Wyoming Legislature. I strongly and unequivocally condemn this type of attitude on social media or otherwise. As Speaker of the House, I have held that civility towards each other is the mechanism to ensure we can work together. Civility is the basic expectation of how a member of the Wyoming House of Representatives should conduct themselves, both on and off the floor of the House.

“I have also been made aware of threats to kill or harm Representative Provenza because of her social media post. The issuance of death threats against an elected official in any context or anyone else is reprehensible and unlawful. Again, there is simply no room in the legislative sphere for use of fear or threatened violence.

“Ultimately, Representative Provenza’s post was not only inappropriate conduct for a member of the House of Representatives, but it also serves to divide our state. Representative Provenza in a statement released today recognizes and apologizes for the potential negative impact of her post. In response, I call on Representative Provenza and all members to take care that their actions on social media or otherwise serve to advance civility within our public discourse as a befitting member of the Wyoming Legislature. I will continue to evaluate complaints that I receive on this issue according to rules of the Wyoming House of Representatives.”

Representative Provenza issued the following statement on facebook in response:

“For National Trans Day of Visibility, I shared a meme on my personal social media featuring an older woman, “Aunty Fa,” wearing trans pride colors and holding an assault rifle with the message: “Protect trans folks against fascists and bigots.”

The meme is a nod to a cause I have long supported: Armed self defense for the LGTBQ community. Queer and trans people are disproportionately victims of violence, targeted because of their sexuality and gender expression, including in Wyoming.

Members of the LGBTQ community and their allies depend on Second Amendment rights for protection. Some even organize armed groups to ensure that events like drag shows and Pride parades can proceed without fear of violence. Last year, 31 members of a white nationalist militia were arrested for conspiracy to attack a Pride parade in Idaho, including two Wyoming residents.

The meme I shared acknowledges the sad truth that LGBTQ people and their allies need protection, but luckily in the United States we have the Second Amendment for just that purpose. Hence the message: Protect trans folks.

Shortly after I posted the meme, the Wyoming Freedom Caucus shared it with its national partners and claimed that it was an attempt to incite violence, since the week before a trans person had been the perpetrator of a mass shooting in Tennessee.

Defenders of the Second Amendment, including the Freedom Caucus, have for decades pointed out the clear difference between using guns for mass shootings and using them for self defense. I respectfully encourage my colleagues in the Legislature to remember these conversations, and to remember their response when anti-gun groups tried to use tragic mass shootings to paint all gun owners as violent.

I support the Second Amendment. I co-sponsored successful legislation this year to give non-violent felons their gun rights back. I do not wish violence on anyone, but I believe that Americans have the right to defend themselves and their communities—and that right extends to all of us.

That said, I apologize for failing to recognize the potential impact of my actions on social media, which have contributed to inflammatory and distracting online discourse. Especially in these divisive times, we must always maintain focus on working toward collaborative solutions to the problems facing our state and its residents.”