Wyoming Senate Advances Constitutional Ban on Gay Marriage

Wyoming senators this week passed a resolution that, if ultimately approved by voters, would create a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

On Thursday, the Senate voted 20-10 in favor of Joint Resolution 5 as proposed by Sen. Curt Meier (R-LaGrange) that would ask voters to amend Wyoming’s constitution to specifically ban recognition of same-sex marriage.

Wyoming already has a statutory ban on gay marriage due to a law dating back to territorial days that specifies marriages carried out within the state can only be between one man and one woman, however the law does not prevent the state from recognizing same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions.

As such, Wyoming lawmakers have sort remedies to this perceived inconsistency, the senate resolution being one of them.

Earlier this week, the House approved a separate bill that would amend the current law to prohibit the state honoring out of state same-sex marriages. This, the less stringent of the two measures, is not a constitutional amendment and so will not require a referendum.

A third and as yet largely neglected bill would legalize civil unions in the state.

Governor Matt Mead (R), who is on record saying that marriage should be between one man and one woman, has this week expressed caution over how the state proceeds on the issue given the difficult legal situation no longer recognizing out of state same-sex marriages could create.

From NECN:

The rights of people in same-sex marriages to have access to Wyoming’s courts for issues like child custody and property disputes is already in question. The Wyoming Supreme Court is preparing to hear a divorce case involving two women who were married in Canada after a district judge in November said state law gave him no authority to dissolve their marriage.

Speaking at a news conference Thursday, Mead said he believes marriage should be between a man and a woman.

“But I also believe that we have to be very careful and pragmatic about how we approach this,” said Mead, a former U.S. attorney in Wyoming. “And the reason is that we do not want to, as a state, limit access to our court system.”

Child custody or property issues can arise with same-sex couples as they do in any marriage, Mead said. “You could have a situation where those needed to be decided quickly. We do not want to say to that couple, ‘Listen, you can’t use our courts. You have to go back to the state where you were married.’”

Earlier this year Jason Marsden, executive director of The Matthew Shepard Foundation, gave testimony before the Senate committee charged with handling the proposed constitutional amendment.

He has been a vocal opponent of both initiatives and told The Advocate this week of his dismay that the Wyoming Legislature — bolstered by large Republican gains following the November 2010 midterm elections — would pursue these measures given that he feels public support for marriage equality in the state has risen significantly:

“When I first testified against this in 2007, there were only four people opposing the bills,” Marsden says. “[This time] there were dozens of people, including young LGBT people from the University of Cheyenne and a high school. We vastly outnumbered the proponents of the bill and the amount of people we were able to muster a few years ago.”

[...]

“As I told the committee, if a member brought up a bill that hoped to invalidate legal contracts brought up by our citizens, it would be inconceivable,” Marsden says. “Somehow when the contracts involve same-sex people, the calculus is turned around and it’s a slam dunk.”

The constitutional amendment will now go before the House where its future is uncertain. If passed and signed by Gov. Mead, the ban will go before voters in a 2012 referendum. While the constitutional amendment had sort to also ban civil unions, this clause was stripped from the language in committee leaving this as a potential avenue for some legal recognition for same-sex partners.

The less stringent House bill to prevent recognition of out of state same-sex marriages would seem destined to pass the Senate with little trouble, and, of the two, would be the most likely to reach Gov. Mead’s desk.

 


Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to Jeff Belmonte.

72 comments

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin6 years ago

In a country that has been devastated with people losing their jobs, increased homelessness and violence growing every day, politicians find it more useful to use their power to end or deny equality for a part of the population instead of working to solve this current economic crisis, which will benefit everyone.

Have the world gone completely mad or is it an illness only hitting the US?

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Lika S.
Lika P6 years ago

Okay, so is there a law that outright states heterosexual marriage is legal? According to this, it does not say anything about a couple has to be the opposite gender - http://usmarriagelaws.com/search/united_states/legal_requirements/index.shtml

This being said, it is then unconstitutional to ban gay marriage because it's not pertaining to the greater good of society. It's an infringement on civil liberties that the US Government shall not make any laws restricting status as a person. This would make a gay person a second class citizen, pretty much the same class as a slave.

By denying gay marriage, you're presuming that the state of being gay is unlawful, and the Constitution automatically presumes lawfulness. So it's a ban that goes against the 9th Amendment for privacy, 8th Amendment for cruel punishment, 4th Amendment for unreasonable searches (yes, searching to excuse the discrimination against a person for being gay would constitute this, imho), and the 14th Amendment of being a citizen that has all to be free of any law that abridges the privileges or immunities of a citizen and the right to be free of any law that deprives a person of life, liberty, or property without due process.

We're talking about two consenting adults. If you have a religious or faith problem with it, let God be the judge. We are NOT to cast the first stone in this case. Protect civil rights of ALL people or you do disservice to MLK jr.

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Lika S.
Lika P6 years ago

Okay, so is there a law that outright states heterosexual marriage is legal? According to this, it does not say anything about a couple has to be the opposite gender - http://usmarriagelaws.com/search/united_states/legal_requirements/index.shtml

This being said, it is then unconstitutional to ban gay marriage because it's not pertaining to the greater good of society. It's an infringement on civil liberties that the US Government shall not make any laws restricting status as a person. This would make a gay person a second class citizen, pretty much the same class as a slave.

By denying gay marriage, you're presuming that the state of being gay is unlawful, and the Constitution automatically presumes lawfulness. So it's a ban that goes against the 9th Amendment for privacy, 8th Amendment for cruel punishment, 4th Amendment for unreasonable searches (yes, searching to excuse the discrimination against a person for being gay would constitute this, imho), and the 14th Amendment of being a citizen that has all to be free of any law that abridges the privileges or immunities of a citizen and the right to be free of any law that deprives a person of life, liberty, or property without due process.

We're talking about two consenting adults. If you have a religious or faith problem with it, let God be the judge. We are NOT to cast the first stone in this case. Protect civil rights of ALL people or you do disservice to MLK jr.

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Colleen S.
Colleen S6 years ago

Brenda- so you're saying that same sex couples can be married... but it can't be called a marriage? What's the difference? How exactly is it a "mockery?" I know more same sex couples that abide by the promises made "at the alter" than straight couples.

Banning "gay marriage" is ridiculous. How would you feel if you loved someone, and you wanted to devote your life to them by way of marriage but some bigoted government said no because of your preference of sex position. It would be JUST AS RIDICULOUS, and just as INVASIVE. This whole controversy is a violation of separation of church and state. Why should the government have ANY say about who a person can marry; especially when their reasoning is based on some phrase in a relious text (which is complete fiction by theway) that was written by MAN not "god". Discrimination based on sexual orientation is NOT CONSTITUTIONAL (except maybe if your a white christian male that thinks the world owes you something).

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Colleen S.
Colleen S6 years ago

Brenda- so you're saying that same sex couples can be married... but it can't be called a marriage? What's the difference? How exactly is it a "mockery?" I know more same sex couples that abide by the promises made "at the alter" than straight couples.

Banning "gay marriage" is ridiculous. How would you feel if you loved someone, and you wanted to devote your life to them by way of marriage but some bigoted government said no because of your preference of sex position. It would be JUST AS RIDICULOUS, and just as INVASIVE. This whole controversy is a violation of separation of church and state. Why should the government have ANY say about who a person can marry; especially when their reasoning is based on some phrase in a relious text (which is complete fiction by theway) that was written by MAN not "god". Discrimination based on sexual orientation is NOT CONSTITUTIONAL (except maybe if your a white christian male that thinks the world owes you something).

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Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers6 years ago

Gay people should have the right to a legalised relationship, but it should not be called a marriage!
They should have the right to inherit from each other etc as married couples do, but in no sense is this a "marriage." as instituted by God. It is a contradiction in terms.To call it such is a mockery! A new term should be used for this relationship.

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Harry Coverston
Harry Coverston6 years ago

Yet another state that wants to vote people off the island. How sad. And how predictable.

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Marcus B.
Marcus B6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

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Jeannie Miner
Jeannie Fuchs6 years ago

Thanks for the article. So sad to read this, with all that is going on in this world, you would think same sex marriage would be the least of there worries. Hopefully they will see the err of there ways & allow same sex marriage.

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Bryon S.
Bryon S6 years ago

No wonder why Mary Cheney moved to Virginia with her partner. I hope this prejudice inciting bill is voted down before there are more Matthew Shepard-like murders.

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