Same sex marriage (SSM) in Wyoming
Recognition of SSMs solemnized in other states.
Marriage statutes in Wyoming:
Marriage legislation in Wyoming specifies that only marriages between one
man and one woman are recognized in the state. Statute 20-1-101 states:
"Marriage is a civil contract between a male and a female person to which the
consent of the parties capable of contracting is essential."
Loving, committed same-sex
couples in Wyoming are recognized only as roommates; any children that they have together are considered
illegitimate. The parents and their children lack the hundreds of protections, rights
and privileges that are automatically granted to opposite-sex married couples.
Because of the federal DOMA law, they are also denied over 1,100 federal
benefits and rights.
The Wyoming marriage law may be on shaky ground. The state constitution
contains passages that call for equal treatment of all citizens of Wyoming.
It does not contain any sections allowing homosexuals and bisexuals to be
declared second-class citizens:
||Sec. 2: "In their inherent right to life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness, all members of the human race are equal."
||Sec. 3: "Since equality in the enjoyment of natural and civil rights
is only made sure through political equality, the laws of
this state affecting the political rights and privileges of
its citizens shall be without distinction of race, color,
sex, or any circumstance or condition whatsoever other than
individual incompetency, or unworthiness duly ascertained by
a court of competent jurisdiction."
Sec. 34: "All laws of a general nature shall have a uniform operation."
Concerning Section 2: A major part of most people's "pursuit of
happiness" is founded on marriage, the protections that it brings, and,
optionally, the raising of children to form a family. Yet for a gay or lesbian, the only suitable
marriage partner is a member of the same sex. Marriage is currently denied them. Marriage
is also denied those bisexuals who develop a loving committed relationship with a
member of the same sex.
Concerning Section 3: If "Jane" and "John" are allowed to marry, but
"Jane" and "Mary" are not, the the latter couple is being discriminated against
on the basis of their sex. Yet the constitution requires that "... the laws of
this state affecting the political rights and privileges of its citizens shall
be without distinction of ... sex ..."
Concerning Section 34: Presumably marriage laws are considered of a
general nature since they apply to most adults, at least at some time during
their lives. Yet the state does not treat all couples equally. It allows opposite-sex couples to marry but denies marriage to
If a constitutional challenge were made to the Wyoming marriage law, a court
might possibly declare the marriage law unconstitutional because it violates up
to three sections of the constitution.
The only way to prevent the possibility of marriage becoming available to all
loving, committed couples in the state
would be to amend the constitution to specifically prohibit same-sex marriage (SSM).
Such amendments have been passed in other states. They typically take one of two
- A straightforward requirement that only marriages between one man and one
woman will be recognized in the state.
A stealth amendment that is promoted as simply banning same-sex marriage.
However, its actual intent would be to also prohibit any legislation that gives any form of
recognition, benefits, or rights to both same-sex couples, and unmarried
The amendment proposed for Wyoming in 2009 appears to have been of the second form.
Although an amendment to the constitution is often promoted as permanently
prohibiting same-sex marriage, it may only become a temporary provision.
Public opinion polls
show a gradual increase in support for, and a gradual decrease in opposition to,
same-sex civil unions and SSM. If these trends continue, a second amendment
that would permit SSM could be ratified perhaps decades in the future and thus
repeal the currently proposed amendment. In 2011, a number of national public opinion polls showed that most American adults were in favor of allowing same-sex couples to marry. The margin of approval has been increasing by about 2 percentage points per year.
Recognition of same-sex marriages solemnized elsewhere:
Article IV, Section 1 of the United States Constitution is frequently called
the "full faith and credit clause." It requires that states respect
"public acts, records, and judicial rulings" of other states.
For example, they are required to recognize each other's vehicle licenses and
extradition orders. Whether this clause applies to marriage
law has not yet been tested in the courts. However, on 2007-AUG-03, the Tenth
Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that:
"Oklahoma's adoption amendment is unconstitutional in its refusal to
recognize final adoption orders of other states that permit adoption by same-sex
There is every likelihood that at least one
same-sex couple in Wyoming will visit the District of Columbia or one of the nine states (as of 2013-FEB) in which same-sex marriage is available,
be married there, return to Wyoming, and ask the state to recognize their
out-of-state marriage. Alternately, a same-sex married couple residing in one of those 10 jurisdictions could move to Wyoming and make the same demand. The state would
undoubtedly refuse the request(s) and a lawsuit would almost certainly follow.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"Title 20, Chapter 1, Article 1" Wyoming Statutes at:
"Constitution of the State of Wyoming," at:
"U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, # 06-623," at:
Copyright © 2009 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2009-FEB-10
Latest update: 2013-FEB-07
Author: B.A. Robinson