Wyoming has been a bit of a question when it comes to marriage equality. State law did not prohibit recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages, but no state agency had done so. Today, the House passed a bill to ban recognition of out of state marriage and civil unions by a 32-27 vote.
Considering that the House has 41 Republicans and 19 Democrats, this was a rather close vote. The bill now goes to the State Senate, which has a 23 to 7 Republican majority. (trib)
State Rep. Owen Petersen, R-Mountain View, the bill’s sponsor, said the legislation is needed to resolve a conflict in Wyoming law, which defines marriage as a contract “between a male and a female person” but also recognizes any valid marriage performed outside the state. Other supporters have said the bill will help to hold back government intrusion into Wyoming traditions and culture.
And on Friday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage by a 3-2 vote. Although an amendment would require support from 20 Senators and 40 House members, and some Republicans are on record as supporting marriage-equality, it has strong support and could pass.
But while this is all troubling news, state legislators may prove unwilling to completely disregard the state’s motto, “Equal Rights,” or its it’s nickname, “The Equality State.” They may instead take a middle position that allows them to be “The (separation but) Equality State”. (trib)
This week, the House Judiciary Committee will take up legislation to establish civil unions in Wyoming that would give same-sex couples in the state the same legal rights and benefits as married couples.
The bill, House Bill 150, appears to have the votes to pass the Judiciary Committee.
State Rep. Cathy Connolly, the Laramie Democrat who’s sponsoring HB150, said she’s “very optimistic” the bill will pass the full House, as many gay marriage opponents have said they support civil unions.
Governor Matt Mead (R) has also indicated that he is open to the idea of civil unions. If House Bill 150 becomes law, it would be the first time that an overwhelmingly Republican state government had supported recognition on this level for same-sex couples.
I strongly believe that civil unions are inferior to marriage and that our community ought to strive for full equality. But absent that political possibility, I consider each small step towards equality to be a victory. And if civil unions is seen as supportable for western-state libertarian-minded Republicans, then our community certainly has something to celebrate.