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Posts for October, 2014

Wyoming marriage ban overturned – UPDATED

Timothy Kincaid

October 17th, 2014

marriage 2014

Judge Scott W. Skavdahl gave himself until Monday to rule on the unconstitutionality of Wyoming’s ban on same-sex marriages. However, he must have found a few minutes in his schedule, so he released his ruling today. (Chris Geidner)

A federal judge has declared that Wyoming cannot deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl put his ruling on hold until Oct. 23 to provide time for government officials to attempt an appeal if they wish. The ruling could go into effect sooner if government officials inform the court that they do not plan to appeal the decision.

And government defendants may well inform the court of their intention not to appeal. (Star Trubune)

Republican Gov. Matt Mead said the state shouldn’t appeal the same-sex marriage ruling due from U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl.

Mead spoke on the issue Thursday night during a Wyoming PBS debate in Riverton. Mead is seeking re-election Nov. 4.

“The answer is no, I don’t think we should appeal the ruling,” he said.

Should Mead and the other three office holders named in the suit notify the court, then Skavdahl will lift the stay and marriages will begin.

UPDATE - One of the four defendants, Debra K. Lathrop, in her official capacity as Laramie County Clerk, has informed the court that she has no intention of appealing. The three remaining defendants are:

Matthew H. Mead, in his official capacity as the Governor of Wyoming
Dean Fausset, in his official capacity as the Director of the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information
Dave Urquidez, in his official capacity as the Administrator of the State of Wyoming Human Resources Administration

UPDATE – Mean has announced that the state will not appeal the decision and that the Attorney General will file notice with the court. This likely encompases the other members of his administration.

I suspect that the filing and lifting of stay will not come before Monday.

Plan your Brokeback marriage

Timothy Kincaid

October 16th, 2014

Wyoming, home of the fictional Brokeback Mountain, may get marriage equality as early as Monday. (Casper Star Tribune)

Acknowledging his order could have grave consequences if incorrect, U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl plans to issue an order by Monday in a case that could legalize same-sex marriage in Wyoming.

The judge said he would consider the arguments and examine a few more issues before making a decision because “the impact of this court’s ruling if incorrect” could have grave consequences. Skavdahl said he would issue his ruling by 5 p.m. Monday.

The Most Momentous Supreme Court Non-Decision Ever Made

Jim Burroway

October 6th, 2014

EqualityChart

With today’s Supreme Court non-decision, about 53% of all Americans now live in jurisdictions with marriage equality. That’s twenty-four states and the District of Columbia. Indiana, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin and Utah will open their clerk offices to same-sex couples as soon as the various Federal District Courts go through their formalities. Those formalities are already out of the way in Colorado, Oklahoma, Virginia and Utah. Things are happening so fast I wouldn’t be surprised if Indiana gets the go-ahead before I finish writing this post. Meanwhile, you can expect that Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming will follow suit any day now, since they too are now bound by the decisions already handed down in the in the 4th Circuit, 7th Circuit, and 10th Circuit Courts of Appeals.

The biggest wild card remains the Sixth Circuit, which heard oral arguments last August in a Michigan challenge to that state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. That court also heard oral arguments from four other states — Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee — challenging those states’ bans on recognizing legal marriages from out of state. If the Sixth Circuit goes all contrarian and upholds any of those bans, then we could expect the issue to be dropped once again at the Supreme Court’s footsteps.

And to think that barely over a decade ago, our relationships were still criminalized in fourteen states.

Now, it’s possible that the three-judge panel in Cincinnati may rule against marriage equality. It’s also conceivable that a three-judge panel in the Fifth, Eighth and Eleventh Circuits could uphold a same-sex marriage ban in, say, Louisiana, for example.

But if one did, it seems much more likely that the entire circuit would step in for an en banc decision. But even if that didn’t happen, then sure, maybe an anti-equality decision could conceivably make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. But by then, some two-thirds or more of all Americans are likely to be living in marriage equality states. Would the Supreme Court go back and overturn all of that? That now seems preposterous. Today’s non-decision is the new law of the land.

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.

YouTube Preview Image

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.

Wyoming House votes down anti-gay marriage bill

Timothy Kincaid

February 14th, 2014

Yesterday we reported that the Wyoming House of Representatives had rejected a marriage equality bill by a 41 to 17 vote. Later in the day, the House also rejected an anti-gay marriage bill. (SFGate)

The state later Thursday voted down a bill sponsored by Casper Republican Rep. Gerald Gay that would have specified that Wyoming wouldn’t recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

Cheyenne Rep. Dan Zwonitzer [R - Cheyenne] spoke against the bill, saying the “Equality State” shouldn’t take a step backward.

The House voted against introducing the bill by a vote of 31-to-29.

I suppose the message here is that the Wyoming House of Representatives is not ready to support marriage equality. Yet. But they’re on their way.

Perhaps it is time to try again for Domestic Partnerships.

Wyoming House votes down a marriage bill

Timothy Kincaid

February 13th, 2014

From SFGate

The Wyoming House has defeated a bill that would have changed state law to allow same-sex marriages.

Democratic Rep. Cathy Connolly of Laramie sponsored the bill. It would have removed the state’s current legal specification that marriage is a civil contract between a man and a woman.

The House voted 41-to-17 against the bill on Thursday.

I don’t think anyone expected this bill to pass. What’s interesting, however, is that the Wyoming House has 52 Republicans and 8 Democrats. Which means that a marriage equality bill in Wyoming got the support of 9 Republicans.

And that is a sign of progress.

Wyoming Senate defeats non-discrimination bill

Timothy Kincaid

January 31st, 2013

The Wyoming State Senate narrowly defeated a non-discrimination bill. (Trib.com)

The Wyoming Senate rejected a bill today that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The standing vote was 13 for the bill and 15 opposed.

Wyoming domestic partnership bill fails in the House

Timothy Kincaid

January 30th, 2013

Today the Wyoming House of Representatives failed to pass a domestic partnership bill by a vote of 24 to 34. However, this bill came far closer to passage than many non-Wyomans had expected and gives hope that in the next session such a bill might prevail.

Wyoming Senate committee advances non-discrimination bill

Timothy Kincaid

January 30th, 2013

Today the Wyoming Senate Judiciary Committee heard Senate File 0131, a bill which would prohibit discrimination on the basis or sexual orientation and gender identity. The committee approved the bill 4 to 1. (Billings Gazette)

Committee Chairman Sen. John Schiffer, R-Kaycee, voted in favor of the bill. A rancher, Schiffer is a veteran legislator and former president of the Senate.

“This is a piece that fits into the process of implementing what’s in our Constitution, that all people are created equal and have equal rights,” Schiffer said. “This is just part of the process of us as a state maybe maturing, maybe broadening our views.”

Voting yes was Sens. Esquibel (D – 8, cosponsor), Burns (R – 21, cosponsor), Schiffer (R – 22, chairman), Christensen (R – 17). Voting no was Sen. Hicks (R – 11).

Math for Wyoming House domestic partnerships

Timothy Kincaid

January 28th, 2013

The Wyoming House of Representatives has 60 members. Of that number, nine just voted in committee, seven in favor and two opposed.

That leaves 51 members which have not voted. However, four of them (two Republicans and two Democrats) are sponsors of the bill and can be counted as yes votes. It is also probably likely that the five Democrats who did not sponsor the bill will also vote favorably.

Which means that our starting place is probably 16 yes votes. So, in order for this bill to pass the House, we need 15 Republicans to support it, out of 42 who have not yet stated their position. In other words, we need 36% of Republicans to support the bill.

We cannot extrapolate the committee vote, but we can gain hope from it. In committee, 75% of Republicans voted yes.

Wyoming committee approves domestic partnership bill

Timothy Kincaid

January 28th, 2013

Two bills came before the Wyoming House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee today, one to enact marriage equality and the other to allow for a domestic partnership registry that appears to be ‘all but the name’.

The marriage bill failed to pass by a 5-4 vote, but the domestic partnership bill was approved 7-2 and will move on for debate on the House floor.

Wyoming rally

Timothy Kincaid

January 25th, 2013

As Jim informed you, on Monday the the House Corporations Committee will hear testimony on the marriage equality and domestic partnership bills followed on Wednesday by a hearing in Judiciary for the non-discrimination bill.

Equality Wyoming is holding a rally on Monday in support of all three bills.

When: Monday, 9 AM on the front steps of the Capitol Building in Cheyenne.

Come dressed for business because we mean business for Wyoming!

Our rally will be calm, cool, and collected with slick black and white signs. If you’d like to make your own signs (encouraged!), go for simple, clear messages that lend themselves to black and white photography.

Check out the Action Alert for more information.

Wyoming Lawmakers To Consider Marriage Equality Legislation

Jim Burroway

January 25th, 2013

Timothy already covered this in his state-by-state rundown, but I think it deserves a bit more visibility. Wyoming lawmakers will consider two bills on Monday, one granting same-sex marriage and the other providing domestic partnership benefits. There is also a non-discrimination bill under consideration. From the National Center for Lesbian Rights:

At noon on Monday, January 28, the House Corporations Committee will hear testimony on the marriage equality and domestic partnership bills. If one or both pass committee, they will proceed to a vote by the entire House of Representatives a few days later. On Wednesday, Jan 30, at 8 a.m., the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony on the non-discrimination bill.

The legislation has bipartisan support, including, as Timothy noted last week, “Catholic Republican Chair of the Judiciary Committee (Keith) Gingery, who did not support marriage in 2007, 2009, or 2012.” NCLR urges Wyoming residents to call or email their legislators today, and provides contact information.

Marriage update – North America

Timothy Kincaid

January 25th, 2013

It’s getting marriagey all over the place. And it’s also getting hard to keep track of what is going on where. So here is an update to help (which will probably be outdated by the time I hit “publish”).

North America:

Canada - Marriage has been equal since 2005.

Mexico - Marriage is equal in Mexico City, and marriages conducted there are recognize throughout the nation. However, in December, the Supreme Court unanimously found that an anti-gay marriage law in Oaxaca was unconstitutional. Due to Mexico’s complicated legal system, this means that marriages are highly likely to eventually be legal throughout the nation, but the process requires that five same-sex couples in each state file an amparo (civil rights claim) and that the court issue the same ruling on each. It may take some time for the legality of the state by state process to catch up, but the reality is that any Mexican couple wishing to marry probably can, either immediately or through petition.

United States - Several locales provide or have provided marriage equally:

  • Massachusetts – 2005 2003
  • California – 2008, but rescinded that year
  • Connecticut – 2008
  • Vermont – 2009
  • Iowa – 2009
  • New Hampshire – 2010
  • The District of Columbia – 2010
  • New York – 2011
  • Washington – 2012
  • Maryland – 2012
  • Maine – 2013

In addition, two Native American tribes, the Coquille in Oregon and the Suquamish in Washington provide marriage equally to their members.

Current and upcoming movement on the marriage front includes:

* DOMA3 – several federal courts have found the federal prohibition on recognition of legally married same-sex couples – the Defense of Marriage Act, Section 3 – to be unconstitutional on several grounds. The Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear one case, Windsor v. the United States, a case in which Edie Windsor was assessed in excess of $300,000 in inheritance tax from her wife’s estate, a tax that does not apply to heterosexuals. On Tuesday, the special counsel for the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (at the direction of House Speaker John Boehner) filed its arguments in defense of the law (I’ll try to get an analysis up soon). It argued that BLAG has standing to support the law, that only rational basis should apply to anti-gay discrimination, that the nation needs uniform recognition, and that states should be allowed to decline to offer equality if they so choose (thus, I assume, vetoing other states in the name of uniformity). Today Professor Victoria C. Jackson will, at the court’s request, filing a brief insisting that BLAG has no standing and on February 26th, Windsor’s team will present arguments as to why she should not be discriminated against. Oral arguments before SCOTUS will be on March 27th, and the Court will likely release it’s ruling in June. Whichever way it goes, it will probably only impact couples in states which allow marriage.

* Proposition 8 - this is the highest profile case, but it could end up having the least legal effect. In 2008, the California Supreme Court found the state’s law prohibiting same-sex marriage to be a violation of the state’s constitution. For several months, same-sex couples could legally marry, but in November the voters approved Proposition 8 by 52%, ending marriage equality in the Golden State. In May 2009, Ted Olson, one of the most prominent Republican attorneys and David Boies, one of the most prominent Democratic attorneys, teamed up to fight for the legal overturn of that proposition. In January 2010, though cameras were banned from the courtroom, the nation was captivated by the reporting about the case – a trial not only on the legality of the proposition but also on its merits. Federal Judge Vaughn Walker eventually found the proposition to violate the US Constitution on broad grounds. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision, but on much narrower grounds: that a state cannot provide a right to all citizens and then take it away from a select few. Last month the Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal, but added the question as to whether the proponents defending the law (the Governor and Attorney General declined to do so) have standing. On Tuesday the proponents of the law filed their brief (I’ll try to get an analysis up soon). Olson and Boies have until February 21st to respond, and oral arguments will be on March 26th with a likely result in June. While the Court could find that the US Constitution guarantees marriage equality across the land, it could also choose to narrow its ruling to the unique issues of the case and only impact Californians.

* Rhode Island - on Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the marriage bill. The full House voted in favor today 51-19. However, the Senate is less certain. Although Rhode Island is virtually a single-party state (the Senate has 32 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 1 Independent), the Senate President, Teresa Paiva-Weed, is an opponent to equality. She has said that she will allow a committee to hear the matter, but in times past she has made certain that committees were selected to prevent equality.

I have started a petition at Change.org to request that should Paiva-Weed obstruct or block the passage of this bill, that Rhode Island State Senators remove her from power. Please go sign this petition.

* Illinois - a marriage bill was submitted during the first week of the year in a lame-duck session. Due to difficulty in corralling members returning from holiday, the vote never took place.

After the new legislature was is session, the bill was reintroduced. Currently the status is a bit in limbo as the bill is yet to be sent to committee.

However, that does not mean that there is no excitement, just that it’s happening outside the legislature and in an unexpected arena. The GOP chairman has come out in favor of marriage, which has angered social conservatives in the state. Bit though they are demanding his resignation and threatening ouster, the party insiders are lining up behind the chairman. At the moment it seem like the prevailing position may end up, “we may not support equality, but we support those who do.” In any case, this latest public squabble serves our community well.

* Minnesota - fresh off a victory in turning back an anti-marriage bill in November, Minnesotans for All Families is fighting on and will present a marriage bill to the legislature next month. The political strategist who generaled the battle is staying on to finish the war.

Polls are breaking even in the state and the DFL (Democratic) party has a slim lead in each house, so they will have their work cut out for them. But I would be surprised if the state did not take some movement towards couple recognition.

* Colorado - supporters filed an everything-but-the-name Civil Unions bill which is pretty much guaranteed to pass. More than half of each house has signed on as sponsors. This is as far as that state can go at present, as there is a state constitutional ban on equality.

* Wyoming - out of pretty much nowhere and flying way below the radar, lesbian Sen. Cathy Connolly has file both a domestic partnership bill and a marriage bill. Both have significant Republican support.

They may not be attracting much buzz on these bills due to party power; Republicans dominate both houses by overwhelming numbers. But Wyoming Republicans are traditionally pretty libertarian in their thinking and local papers are mostly quoting the bills’ Republican cosponsors. It may be early yet, but so far there doesn’t appear to be any visible organized opposition. I would not be altogether shocked if one of the bills passed or, at least, got a decent vote.

* New Jersey - the legislature of this state has already passed a marriage bill which was vetoed by the governor. However there are the paths to equality that might be achievable.

One is to take it to the people. But though a supporter brought such a bill, it was quickly dismissed due to the inherent insult of voting on a minority’s civil rights. (Personally, I’d rather win at the polls that fight over whether its an insult to do so.)

The second path, the one favored by equality leaders in the state, is to continue building support one by one until we have the numbers to override a veto. That would require substantial Republican support and this would be held off until after the next primary to minimize conservative backlash.

The third possibility doesn’t appear likely, but it shouldn’t be written off. Governor Chris Christie is a politician, and politicians are susceptible to evolution.

Christie made his mark in the Republican Party by being hard nose on fiscal issues but being more progressive on social issues. He was the poster boy for supporting civil unions, a position that made him seem ahead of the curve. As the Party moves away from anti-gay hostility, he may find it necessary to move as well. It’s not a bet I’d take, but it’s not outside the realm if possible for the Governor to hold to his views but still find some way to allow marriage to become law.

* Hawaii - I’ve no idea why marriage hasn’t already become law.

I think it can be hardest sometimes in states in which one party dominates. In mega-red states, we have little hope (though i just made a case for Wyoming). But in all-blue states, its not always much better. There’s no reason for Democrats to show the voters the difference between them and Republicans, so they fell less pressure to live up to their potential.

I’m sure I’ve missed some state in there. And, of course, you have to always expect that something completely unexpected will happen.

Tomorrow I’ll try to provide an update for Europe and South America.

UPDATE:

Yesterday, a state representative in Hawaii filed a bill for marriage equality. She had no cosponsors. Also yesterday, 15 representatives filed a bill calling for a constitutional amendment banning equality. It was also introduced in the senate. Additionally, a state senator filed a pair of ‘take it to the people’ bills which would have voters choose to either allow or ban marriage in the constitution (he’s an opponent of equality). All in all, it looks dire for marriage in Hawaii.

The evolution of domestic partnerships

Timothy Kincaid

January 16th, 2013

Representative Cathy Connolly (D-Albany) has submitted two bills to the Wyoming legislature, one providing for marriage equality and one providing for domestic partnerships. Both bills have bipartisan support in the House, and the domestic partnership bill has bipartisan support in the Senate.

While marriage is highly preferable, either bill would be a great improvement in the lives of gay couples in the state. And even the domestic partnership bill has taken a step further than other DP bills have.

Domestic Partnerships were first proposed in San Francisco in the late 70′s. The City Counsel approved such a provision in 1982, but then-mayor Diane Feinstein vetoed the bill (San Francisco finally got domestic partnerships in 1990). In 1985, the newly chartered city of West Hollywood created the first Domestic Partner registry.

In 1999, the State of California passed the first state-wide domestic partnership bill. The benefits were limited; it provided for a public registry, hospital visitation rights, and authorized health insurance coverage for domestic partners of public employees. Over the next several years, additional benefits and obligations were added and the California Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2003 provided that (nearly) all provisions that impact marriage also impact domestic partnerships (though as recently as 2011, additional tinkering was required).

Oregon (in 2007) and Nevada (in 2009) started where California ended up. Oregon’s HB2007 Section 9 starts with “Any privilege, immunity, right or benefit granted by statute, administrative or court rule, policy, common law or any other law to an individual because the individual is or was married” and runs for about 500 more words. Nevada’s SB283 Section 7 manages to squeeze the definition down to about 365 words and begins thusly:

Domestic partners have the same rights, protections and benefits, and are subject to the same responsibilities, obligations and duties under law, whether derived from statutes, administrative regulations, court rules, government policies, common law or any other provisions or sources of law, as are granted to and imposed upon spouses.

But the proposed Wyoming law takes a unique approach and, I think, one which reflects the evolution in the nation’s thinking about same-sex couples.

For purposes of Wyoming statutes, administrative rule, policy, common law or any other source of civil or criminal law, the term “spouse” shall include a party to a domestic partnership contract evidenced by a certificate issued pursuant to this chapter.

No longer are domestic partners treated just like spouses. Should this bill become law, in Wyoming domestic partners would be spouses.

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