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Posts for January, 2013

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.

Wait wait wait wait wait… WYOMING?!?

Timothy Kincaid

January 15th, 2013

Either I’m dreaming, someone has hacked my browser and is playing a big joke, or the movement towards equality is in hypermegaoverdrive. (Jackson Hole Daily)

Laramie Democratic Rep. Cathy Connolly filed legislation late Monday afternoon that would create a path for gay couples to form civil unions or get married.

Okay, that sounds normal. It was the response of some Republicans that has me wondering if April 1 came early.

The dual approach already has won the backing of Reps. Ruth Ann Petroff, R-Jackson, and Gingery. Both Teton County lawmakers said they would prefer to see gay marriage allowed in Wyoming but are willing to debate whether civil unions might be a better way to go.

That would be Catholic Republican Chair of the Judiciary Committee Gingery who did not support marriage in 2007, 2009, or 2012. But, in his words:

“It’s hard for anyone to be against gay marriage when there’s a face to it and that face is a friend or relative,” Gingery said.

Wyoming Supremes grant same-sex divorce rights

Timothy Kincaid

June 6th, 2011

The Wyoming Supreme Court has recognized the right of a same-sex couple married in Canada to divorce in that state. They avoided the larger question of whether out-of-state marriage were recognized as such in Wyoming, addressing instead the narrower issue of divorce.

[R]ecognizing a valid foreign same-sex marriage for the limited purpose of entertaining a divorce proceeding does not lessen the law or policy in Wyoming against allowing the creation of same-sex marriages. A divorce proceeding does not involve recognition of a marriage as an ongoing relationship. Indeed, accepting that a valid marriage exists plays no role except as a condition precedent to granting a divorce. After the condition precedent is met, the laws regarding divorce apply. Laws regarding marriage play no role.

Specifically, Paula and Victoria are not seeking to live in Wyoming as a married couple. They are not seeking to enforce any right incident to the status of being married. In fact, it is quite the opposite. They are seeking to dissolve a legal relationship entered into under the laws of Canada. Respecting the law of Canada, as allowed by § 20-1-111, for the limited purpose of accepting the existence of a condition precedent to granting a divorce, is not tantamount to state recognition of an ongoing same-sex marriage. Thus, the policy of this state against the creation of same-sex marriages is not violated.

This does, however, give encouragement to those who would claim other marriage benefits or rights based on an out-of-state marriage.

Much thanks to reader embarcadero

Wyoming anti-marriage bill update

Timothy Kincaid

March 2nd, 2011

From the Star-Tribune

By a 31-28 vote, House members voted to accept a stripped-down version of House Bill 74 crafted by a conference committee on Tuesday. Conference committee members tore out all language on the two most contentious issues surrounding the bill – civil unions and court access for same-sex couples.

UPDATE: The bill died in the Senate 16-14

Which means that Wyoming law remains in limbo. Basically, there is no recognition of out-of-state marriages or civil unions, but Wyoming legislature still contains enough libertarian “western Republicans” that anti-gay legislation could not pass this year.

Civil unions dropped from Wyoming anti-marriage bill

Timothy Kincaid

March 1st, 2011

House Bill 74 would ban the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages. Wyoming law, which was written before the first same-sex marriages, defines marriage as a contract “between a male and a female person” but also recognizes any valid marriage performed outside the state – a discrepancy which put same-sex marriages in limbo.

HB74 has passed both the Wyoming House and Senate, but in sharply different versions. Both banned the recognition of civil unions, but the Senate provided that state courts could address the dissolution of civil unions from other states and the House specifically banned courts from addressing such couples.

Until a few hours ago, it looked as though this bill might die due to an inability of the committee assigned to work out the discrepancy to reach any conclusion. The Senate had barely passed the bill and the Governor had indicated that he would veto the bill if it did not allow courts to remedy the legal problems of gay couples in a civil union. But the House was insistent that allowing same-sex couples to seek resolution in court was tantamount to giving the state’s sanction to their union.

Finally, the least likely of compromises was reached

But with the Legislature set to adjourn for the year on Thursday, the conference committee took out all language dealing with civil unions and court access.

Conference committee members said the changes bring the bill closer to other states’ Defense of Marriage acts. They also said it was better to have a narrowed bill than no bill at all, and they said it would be up to future Legislatures to tackle the issue of civil unions.

It must now go back to the House and Senate for approval of the revisions.

Wyoming Marriage Ban Dies

Jim Burroway

February 28th, 2011

After a proposed constitutional amendment overwhelmingly passed the state Senate, it went on to die in the House:

The Wyoming House adjourned Friday without taking action on a same-sex marriage bill that had already passed the state Senate. The bill failed to meet a procedural deadline that would have kept the bill alive.

It’s still unclear whether a separate bill banning recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages will clear the House. The snag is over whether they will allow Wyoming Courts to dissolve civil unions performed in other states.

Wyoming Senate narrowly votes not to recognize out-of-state marriages

Timothy Kincaid

February 18th, 2011


The Wyoming Senate narrowly voted Friday to stop recognition of same-sex marriages and civil unions from outside the state.

House Bill 74 passed 16-14 after tagging on a last-second amendment guaranteeing out-of-state couples in civil unions access to Wyoming courts.

This is closer than might have been expected. Ten Republicans joined all four Democrats in voting “No”.

Further, the language of this bill is interesting. It appears to invalidate all same-sex marriage, but only invalidate civil unions that would not be recognized in Wyoming. I may be misreading this, but it does seem to leave open the possibility of a civil unions bill being passed.

Wyoming House committee rejects civil unions

Timothy Kincaid

January 30th, 2011

From the Star-Tribune

Legislation that would have made Wyoming the third state to recognize civil unions narrowly failed in the House Judiciary Committee on Friday.

The 5-4 vote to defeat House Bill 150 came after hours of impassioned testimony from supporters who said civil unions would give same-sex couples basic rights and opponents who claimed civil unions were a thinly disguised stepping stone to gay marriage.

Some who voted against the bill left open the possibility of support for a differently worded bill.

But state Reps. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne, and Frank Peasley, R-Douglas, who cast the deciding votes against the bill, opposed the proposal not on ideological grounds, but rather because they worried the wording of the bill — which almost exactly mirrored the rights and responsibilities Wyoming law lists for marriage -– could lead to legal pitfalls in the future.

In the meanwhile, I would support a petition to have Wyoming change it’s motto from “Equal Rights” and it’s nickname from “the Equality State”.

And with Wyoming’s bill to ban recognition of out-of-state relationships, I would just love to see California, New Jersey, and others pass a truth in advertising law that requires all tourism advertising in the state to warn residents that their legal rights and contracts will not be honored.

Will Wyoming Governor veto “no out of state marriages” bill?

Timothy Kincaid

January 27th, 2011

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead (R) made a statement today that suggests that he is not supportive of a bill that would deny recognition of out-of-state marriages or civil unions. (

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.'”

This certainly sounds to me as though Mead, who has previously indicated potential support for civil unions, would welcome some mechanism by which legal arrangements from out-of-state would have civil union status.

Wyoming Senate passes anti-marriage constitutional amendment

Timothy Kincaid

January 27th, 2011

The Wyoming Senate has voted by the required two-thirds to present a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage – but not civil unions – to the voters of the state. Although the state has a 23 to 7 Republican majority, ten Senators voted against the measure.

The amendment now goes to the House, where it will need 40 members’ support. Although the House has 41 Republicans, this may not be an easy task. On Monday the vote to not recognize out-of-state marriages passed 32 – 27.

Meanwhile, House Bill 150 which would provide for civil unions, will be debated by the House Judiciary Committee on Friday, where it appears to have adequate support.

Wyoming to ban marriage but pass Civil Unions?

Timothy Kincaid

January 24th, 2011

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.

Wyoming Lawmakers Take Aim At Marriage

Jim Burroway

December 31st, 2010

Same-sex marriage is already illegal in Wyoming, but two GOP state lawmakers, Rep. Owen Petersen Sen. Curt Meier, see an opportunity to make it even more illegaller. They plan on introducing a resolution asking Wyoming voters to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage again. A similar resolution in 2009 failed, but that was before the GOP landslide in November.

Wheatland WY is a place for hate

Timothy Kincaid

January 23rd, 2010

The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 to oppose the defamation of Jewish people. Although their primary focus is still on anti-Semitism, they have expanded their focus to oppose all forms of bigotry, defend democratic ideals and protect civil rights for all.

One of their current projects is a school based anti-bullying program called No Place for Hate.

No Place for Hate® was developed to organize schools to work together and develop projects that enhance the appreciation of diversity and foster harmony amongst diverse groups. The campaign empowers schools to promote respect for individual and group differences while challenging prejudice and bigotry.

Every day we make choices. We can choose to let anti-Semitism, racism, and other forms of bigotry go unchallenged and potentially escalate, or we can choose to confront the bias that we see in our workplaces, homes, schools, and communities. As our world becomes smaller and our schools and communities more diverse, it is more critical than ever to actively build bridges to cross-cultural understanding and mutual respect.

bannerSchools across the nation participate in the program, including Wheatland High and West Elementary in Wheatland, Wyoming. They went through the steps of qualifying for participation and received banners which they hung at school, announcing that their campuses were No Place for Hate.

But then there were some protests and the banners were removed. In order to offer the program free to schools, ADL had sponsors whose names were included at the bottom of the banner.

They weren’t upset that Qwest, the communications company was listed. And they didn’t mind that the David & Laura Merage Foundation helped pay for the program. But that red circle with the words “Gay and Lesbian Fund” was simply unacceptable. So down they will stay. (WyomingNews)

Platte County School District 1 trustees voted 4-3 to keep the Anti-Defamation League’s “No Place for Hate” banners down at Wheatland High and West Elementary.

The trustees made no pretense at masking their anti-gay animus:

“If this is the way one chooses, then they can lead this particular lifestyle, but I don’t believe it needs to be publicly displayed in a school,” Dunham said.

Joe Fabian, another board member, said he believes the Anti-Defamation League is pushing an “agenda that is pro-gay marriage” and that the community of Wheatland is not supportive of that.

“They wouldn’t want the organization, the Anti-Defamation League, dictating to their children that an alternate lifestyle is a normal lifestyle,” he said.

Oh, but they like the rest of the program. Can’t they just continue with being a ‘not place for hate except for gays‘?

No. The ADL was quick to note the irony and will not not let the schools participate in the program if they encourage and reward biases.

So Wheatland, Wyoming, a seventy-five mile drive from Laramie, now has a new designation, an adopted identity. Wheatland IS a Place for Hate. And if you’re a gay kid attending those schools, now you clearly know it.

No Marriage Ban on Wyoming Ballot

Timothy Kincaid

February 6th, 2009

Today the Wyoming House determined that it would not put an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment on the ballot. (AP)

The Wyoming House has voted down a bill that would have allowed Wyoming voters to decide whether to amend the state constitution to deny state recognition of same-sex marriages.

Rep. Owen Petersen, R-Lyman, sponsored House Joint Resolution 17. It failed by a vote of 35-25 after frequently emotional debate that lasted more than an hour on Friday.

And according to Michael Petrelis, the House also defeated, by the same margin, a motion to ban the state from recognizing out-of-state gay marriages.

This is especially encouraging when one considers that Republicans have a 41 to 19 advantage over Democrats in the House.

UPDATE: According to the roll call vote, 16 Republicans joined all 19 Democrats to defeat this resolution.

Today In History: Rest In Peace

Jim Burroway

October 16th, 2008

Ten years ago today, family and friends were gathering in Casper, Wyoming, to say their final good-byes to Matthew Shepard. Earlier that morning, Matthew’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, met with reporters before the funeral for a very brief public statement. Choking back tears, Dennis said:

On behalf of our son Matthew Shepard, we want to thank the citizens of the United States, and the people of the world, who have expressed their deepest sympathy and condolences to our family during these trying times. A person as caring and loving as our son Matt would be overwhelmed by what this incident has done to the hearts and souls of people around the world… We are honored and touched beyond measure…

Please understand and respect my family’s request for a private and dignified farewell to our son today. Matt’s family and friends, loved him deeply, and we need to share a quiet goodbye to him. Matt himself would have been the first to honor another family’s request if this had happened to someone else.

We should try to remember that because Matt’s last few minutes of consciousness on earth may have been hell, his family and friends want more than ever to say their farewells to him in a peaceful, dignified and loving manner.

By all accounts, Matt’s funeral at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church was peaceful, dignified and loving. Only selected friends and family were allowed to attend, in an attempt to keep the service quiet and private.

The scene outside the church was in equal parts dignified and circus-like. Crowds of mourners stood quietly in the gentle snowy weather to pay their respects, while police, reporters, photographers and satellite trucks buzzed around them.

A short distance away stood a contingent of protesters from Fred Phelps’ notorious Westboro Baptist Church. They were there holding signs that read, “God hates fags,” and “Matt In Hell.” But they were surrounded and shielded from the church by counter-protesters — for want of a better word — who fashioned large white bedsheets into giant angel wings.

While Westboro’s tactics were the most talked-about example of anti-gay extremism on display that day, they weren’t entirely alone. Ten years ago today also saw Robert Knight’s Family Research Council use the occasion of Matt’s funeral to denounce Phelps — and to boast about their part in the ex-gay advertising blitz that had begun the day before Matt’s murder. The FRC’s statement condemned Phelps’ tactics while sharing his message of condemning Matthew to hell:

While we share Mr. Phelps’ opposition to the homosexual political agenda, his belief that homosexuality is a sin, and his call for punishment of Mr. Shepard’s killers, we do not endorse his tactics, and have asked his group to stop letting themselves be used by the media to crudely caricature Christians.

The ‘truth in love’ media campaign reaches out to people struggling with homosexuality and offers them hope for change and redemption. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, homosexuals are included in a list of sinners, who, if unrepentant, will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Ten years have passed since Matthew Shepard has been laid to rest. Where are we at today?

One thing is undeniable. We’ve made great strides in changing how people view LGBT people. More people are “out” than ever before, living openly for the most part in relative safety.

And yet, too many things still haven’t changed. It is still legal to fire people from their jobs for being gay. Marriage rights are only secure right now in one state. Wyoming is one of twenty states which still does not have a hate crimes law to cover sexual orientation. And the federal hate crime statute still covers race, religion, and national origin — but not sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.

Yet official statistics continue to show that when hate crmes do occur against LGBT people, those crimes are more likely to be violent crimes when compared to other classes which are already protected.

In these ten years since Matthew’s death, we have continued to lose countless lives — singled out simply for who they were. We’ve lost Brandon Teena, Danny Overstreet, Phillip Walstead, Amancio Coralles, Satendar Singh, Scotty Joe Weaver, Daniel Fetty, Steven Domer, Roberto “Poncho” Duncanson, Sean Kennedy, Angie Zapata, Michael Sandy, Simmie Williams, Jr., and Lawrence King — just to name a very few.

As Judy Shepard has said on the tenth anniversary of her son’s death, so much has changed. Yet so much remains the same.

See also:
(Oct 16) Today In History: Rest In Peace
(Oct 13) Today In History: “Something In the Culture”
(Oct 12) Today In History: Matthew Wayne Shepard (Dec 1, 1976 – Oct 12, 1998)
(Oct 11) Today In History: The Vigil
(Oct 10) Today In History: Armbands and Scarecrows
(Oct 9) Also Today In History: Details Emerge
(Oct 9) Today In History: “We Just Wanted To Spend Time With Him”
(Oct 8) Today in History: Two Men Arrested
(Oct 7) Also Today In History: Another Assault In Laramie
(Oct 7) Today In History: “Baby, I’m So Sorry This Happened”
(Oct 6) Today In History: Before Matthew Shepard

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