Simpson becomes face of Wyoming marriage movement

Timothy Kincaid

April 8th, 2014

You may not have thought of Alan Simpson in years. You may not even recognize the name. But if you live in Wyoming, there’s a good chance that you’ve voted for Simpson or one of his relatives.

Simpson’s father, Milward Simpson, was Montana Governor from 1955 to 1959 and US Senator from the state from 1962 to 1967. Peter Simpson, Alan’s brother, served in the state House of Representatives from 1981 to 1984 and ran for Governor in 1986. And his son, Colin Simpson, served in the state House of Representatives from 1999 to 2010 (two years of which he was Speaker) and ran for Governor in 2010.

Alan himself served in the Wyoming House from 1965 to 1977 before going on to represent the state in the US Senate from 1979 to 1997 and was on the short list for 1988 Veep consideration. Most recently he served, at President Obama’s request, with Erskine Bowles as co-chair of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

Today he became the face of the marriage equality movement in the state. The following ad is playing on stations in Wyoming.

Simpson has long been a supporter of our community. In 2001 he helped create Republican Unity Coalition, an organization designed to make the GOP more inclusive and to counter hostile voices in the party. At his request, President Gerald Ford joined the group, becoming the only US President – to date – to join a gay advocacy group.

No doubt other Republicans will try and counter this message. But Simpson’s advocacy stands a strong chance of swaying opinion.

Patrick

April 9th, 2014

I’m very grateful for Senator Simpson’s help. This is not the first time he’s attempted to reign in the loonier factions of his party. Simpson has been a great ally.

But let’s be clear: Wyoming’s same-sex couples’ best chance of access to civil marriage is not through this or any other campaign. It’s through the current court challenge to Wyoming’s marriage law (Courage vs. Wyoming), currently being litigated by a team that includes NCLR’s director of constitutional litigation.

The suit is interesting in that it targets state rather than federal law. Details can be found here: http://wyofile.com/gregory_nickerson/wyoming-same-sex-marriage-case-rests-on-state-constitution/#comment-62701

Timothy Kincaid

April 9th, 2014

Patrick,

You may be correct that the courts are our best hope in Wyoming. And this media campaign is timed so as to grow public support during the time of legal challenge.

However, it is worth noting that last year the state came fairly close to passing a domestic partnership bill through an almost-entirely-Republican legislature. Anti-gay sentiment is not as strong in the state as non-Wyomans assume.

Even without legal challenge, I think Wyoming is not so many years away from equality.

cowboy

April 9th, 2014

Wasn’t Wyoming the first State to grant voting rights to women?

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/wyoming-grants-women-the-vote

It’s a generalization but I feel it’s mostly “live and let live” in the State.

Patrick

April 10th, 2014

Timothy,

I’m familiar with the legislative votes. In the last session, neither LGBT bill made it to a full vote. While this might be expected in a budget session, we’re still very concerned about the growing influence of far-right, many of whom have been elected in the past four years. (For example, http://wypols.com/category/rep-troy-mader-book/). Many of their bills, including proposals to bolster religious education and to stifle science education made it to a full vote. The latter passed and is now law in the state.

Wyomingites’ opinions about marriage equality are not well undertood. Voting patterns and demographics have changed dramatically in the past decade. While it can be said that the state’s political establishment has a long-standing libertarian streak (a la Simpson or Wallop), that may not be the case of the state’s newer residents. There are no publicly available opinion polls on this matter (although I believe one is about to be released).

The Simpson video is part of a campaign spearheaded by Equality Wyoming (read more here: http://www.wyomingunites.org/). It’s my opinion that this campaign is primarily intended to support LGBT friendly candidates in the fall elections.

Much hinges on the outcome of local races. Two key allies left the Wyoming Legislature (Keith Gingery, co-sponsor of the 2013 marriage bill, will retire this year; Rep. Sue Wallis passed away in January and was replaced by the vile bigot referenced above). A third, Dan Zwontizer, announced his candidacy in a race for the office of Secretary of State. If he wins, he will leave the House. Down these three, and with the addition of bigots like Troy Mader, a great deal hinges upon the outcome of this fall’s local elections.

As in discussions about politics anywhere, there are lots of stereotypes about Wyomingites, most of them being mostly untrue most of the time. The libertarian streak is mostly a characteristic of an older, wealthier political establishment, one that is barely clinging to power. The anti-gay sentiment in the state is more difficult to map but tends to coincide with the tea party movement (also known locally as CROW), favored by newer residents who also tend to be less well off, less politically connected and more religious.

And yes, Wyoming was the first state to grant women the right to vote. It was also the first state with a woman governor and the first state to elect a woman to be justice of the peace.

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