Posts Tagged As: Wyoming

Lots of Trans Legal News: One State Adds, One State Defends, Ten More States Sue

Jim Burroway

July 11th, 2016

NOTES: In states other than Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee, local jurisdictions may provide additional anti-discrimination protections beyond those provided by state law. On June 30, a federal judge issued an injunction preventing Mississippi’s so-called “religious freedom” law from going into effect.

NOTES: In states other than Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee, local jurisdictions may provide additional anti-discrimination protections beyond those provided by state law. On June 30, a federal judge issued an injunction preventing Mississippi’s so-called “religious freedom” law from going into effect.

First, let’s start with the good news: on Saturday, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R) signed a transgender rights bill into law. Massachusetts’s anti-discrimination law had previously protected against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in housing and employment, but there was a special carve-out for public accommodations for its gender identity provisions. This new law, which goes into effect October 1, eliminates that carve-out and allows transgender people to use the restrooms and changing facilities consistent with their gender identities rather than their identified gender at birth:

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) will adopt policies to enforce its provisions, a statement from the governor’s office said.

“No one should be discriminated against in Massachusetts because of their gender identity,” Baker said after signing the bill Friday.

“This compromise legislation extends additional protections to the commonwealth’s transgender community, and includes language to address the public safety concerns expressed by some by requiring the attorney general to issue regulations to protect against people abusing the law.”

And there’s more good news: Washington state’s comprehensive anti-discrimination laws have prohibited sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations for more than a decade with nary a problem with any of it. Last December, the state’s Human Rights Commission clarified that law by issuing new regulations ensuring access to restrooms and changing facilities according to an individual’s gender identity. That clarification produced a backlash, which led by some conservative Republicans to roll hack the regulations. When that effort failed in the state Senate, anti-LGBT campaigners filed Initiative 1515 (PDF:19KB/8 pages), which would have restricted access to public school’s “private facilities” to those who are “biologically” male or female. It would also allow people to file lawsuits against school systems that allow access to facilities based on gender identity.

The campaign backing I-1515, Just Want Privacy, had until last week to turn in 246,000 signatures that would be needed to get the initiative on the ballot. Last Thursday, campaign officials notified the Washington Secretary of State Office that they were cancelling their appointment to turn in the petitions.

Map, US, Lawsuits

But it’s not all good news for the pro-T camp. Ten more states, led by Nebraska, filed a federal lawsuit on Friday seeking to halt the Obama Administration’s trans-rights rulings to Title VII and Title IX funding and its recent to schools instructing them to develop anti-discirmination policies protecting transgender students which would include allowing them to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. According to Buzzfeed’s Chris Geidner:

The Nebraska-led lawsuit contains many of the same claims raised in the Texas-led lawsuit, often repeating the same exact language as appeared in the Texas complaint.

Despite naming the same defendants as in the Texas-led lawsuit, however, the Nebraska-led lawsuit appears to focus on protections relating to transgender students — asserting that students have the right under federal law to use a restroom in accordance with their gender identity. Nonetheless, it does name the Education, Justice, and Labor departments, as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as defendants and asks for relief against all of those agencies’ transgender-inclusive policies.

Nebraska’s attorney general, Douglas Peterson, is joined in the suit against the Obama administration by the attorneys general of Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

The lawsuit has been assigned to be heard by U.S. District Court Judge John Gerrard, nominated to the bench by President Obama in 2012. Gerrard previously had served as a justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court.

With this filing, exactly half of all states are involved with federal lawsuits challenging the Obama Administrations pro-trans policies.

Wyoming Senate passes non-discrimination bill

Timothy Kincaid

February 10th, 2015


The Wyoming State Senate voted Tuesday to approve a bill to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Senate voted 24-to-6 on Tuesday to send the bill to the House.

The bill would add prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity to a range of state laws that now prohibit discrimination based on other factors including race, age, disability and political affiliation. The bill has exemptions for religious organizations.

There are 26 Republicans and 4 Democrats in the Wyoming Senate.

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


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.

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. (

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.

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