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Same sex marriage (SSM) and civil unions

In Wyoming, the "Equality State"

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The acronym "SSM" means same-sex marriage.
The acronym "LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons.

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Wyoming is one of the few states in Northern U.S. that does not have a hate-crimes law. The crucifixion and subsequent death of Matthew Shepard near Laramie WY on 1998-OCT-12 helped inspire the federal hate-crimes law: the "Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act" (commonly referred to as the Matthew Shepard Act). However, it seems to have done little to inspire hate-crimes legislation in Wyoming.

Wyoming statutes specify that only one man and one woman can marry in the state. However, the marriage act may be vulnerable to a 2004 court challenge launched by same-sex couples who want to get married in the state, or who have already married out-of-state and want Wyoming to recognize their married status. The current marriage statutes may be in violation up to three equality sections of the Wyoming constitution.

In recent years, there has been a great deal of legislative activity: bills were introduced, committee hearings held, passionate debate conducted in the Senate and House, etc. However as of early 2014-MAR, none have succeeded in changing any laws or in amending the state Constitution. The public has a very strong tradition of respect for individual freedom and for minimal government interference in people's lives. There are also strong conservative social and religious traditions which value intense discrimination against sexual minorities. These two traditions are in conflict when it comes to same-sex marriage. The result seems to be a deep division between pro-equality and anti-LGBT elements in the Legislature, resulting in a series of stalemates:

  • 2009: A group of Republican state representatives attempted to start the process of amending the Wyoming constitution. This was written as a stealth amendment:

    The stated goal was to restrict marriage to a union of one man and one woman -- as a special privilege reserved for opposite-sex couples.

    The real goal was to ban SSMs,civil unions,domestic partnerships, and any other form of legal recognition of loving, committed same-sex relationships.

    The attempt failed. It was approved by a House committee, but rejected by the full House. It was also rejected by a Senate committee and thus was not presented for a Senate vote.

    This is the second failed attempt to write discrimination based on sexual orientation into the Wyoming constitution. The first was two years previously; it almost passed.

  • 2011: A Wyoming Statute § 20-1-111 states that any marriage legally solemnized outside the state is recognized as a marriage in Wyoming. But Statute § 20-1-101 defines marriage as restricted to a union between a man and a woman. An attempt was made in the Legislature to amend § 20-1-111 so that it would refer only to man/woman marriages. It also failed. The original wording survives.

  • 2013: Two bills were introduced to the Legislature: one to legalize same-sex marriage; the other to create a system of domestic partnerships. The former was rejected by a House Committee, the latter by the full House. Neither advanced.

  • 2014-MAR-05: The LGBT community turned to the courts. Four same-sex couples filed a lawsuit in state court. Some of the couples are unmarried and seek a change in the marriage law so that they can marry in Wyoming. Others have been married in another state, and seek to have their marriages recognized in Wyoming.

The population of Wyoming is a little over a half million; it has the smallest population of any U.S. state. If SSM is legalized there, the percentage of Americans who live in a state that permits SSMs will rise by less than 0.2%. Still, it would increase the percentage of states that allows SSM by a full 2%.

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Topics covered in this section:

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Site navigation:

Home > Religious info. > Basic > Marriage > SSM > Menu >here

Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > SSM > Menu > here

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First posted: 2009-FEB-10
Latest update: 2014-MAR-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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