Civil unions & same sex marriage (SSM) in Wyoming
2013: Civil union & same-sex
bills introduced & failed.
The acronym "SSM" means same-sex marriage.
The acronym "LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons.
2013-JAN-17: House Bills introduced: Bill 168 to broaden domestic partnerships and Bill 169 to redefine marriage:
State Rep. Cathy Connolly (D) introduced two House bills, one to create a type of civil union, and the other to allow same-sex couples to marry. The latter was her preferred bill. The former was a backup in case the other failed.
"I absolutely think that there's been a change of attitude, that the time is right, that people truly believe that this is the Equality State. ... You know, a lot of these people have kids. They want to not have to fear losing their jobs, or livelihoods or housing. It's not just for them, it's for their families. There are children involved in this and we have to remember that."
Some might suggest that her concern is not realistic. If a gay or lesbian couple's employer is so homophobic that they would like to fire all lesbian and gay employees, then it probably would not matter whether the employee is married to a same-sex spouse or not. Their job would be toast.
Wally Rayl is a volunteer lobbyist for WyWatch Family Action, which is opposed to any form of state recognition of loving, committed same-sex couples other than as "legal strangers" -- as roommates. He said that the opposition to these bills is:
"... naturally based. ... In our Declaration of Independence, we refer to nature and nature's law, and God's creation. Nature's law is that a family is put together to reproduce. Well, two of the same sex cannot reproduce."
He is probably not aware that those words from the Declaration of Independence reflect the Deist faith -- a non-Christian religion -- that was very common among the founding fathers of the U.S. and among the authors of the Declaration of Independence.
He is apparently misinformed about reproduction. Spouses in a same-sex relationship can and do reproduce. Just as with infertile opposite-sex married couples, a female spouse in a same-sex relationship can choose to be artificially inseminated in order to conceive. As the currently running TV program "The New Normal" shows in every episode, gay male couples can resort to a surrogate relationship with a woman in order to conceive.
I recall an amusing event that occurred in the early years of this century in a Canadian courtroom. The lawsuit was attempting to legalize same-sex marriage through the courts. The federal government lawyers had just argued passionately the same point that Wally Rayl made: that the purpose of marriage is reproduction, and that same-sex couples cannot reproduce. A lawyer representing the plaintiff in the case stood up. Her appearance instantly reduced the government lawyers' argument to ashes. As it was well known, the plaintiff's lawyer is a lesbian. She was about 7 months pregnant at the time. She and her same-sex partner had decided to start raising a family.
The Rev. Dee Lundberg, is a minister at the United Church of Christ in Casper, WY. She married her female spouse in 2011. She feels that the government should widen the definition of marriage to make same-sex couples eligible to marry. She feels that the decision to marry should involve only the private decisions of the couple involved and should not be interfered with by the government. She said:
"We live in a state that has this high value on not having the government tell them how to run their lives." 3
Jeran Artery is the chairperson of Wyoming Equality, a group promoting equal treatment of gays and lesbians. He sees change occurring in the U.S, which is reflected in greater support from the Republican Party for equal rights for lesbians, gays and bisexuals (LGBs). He said:
"The message it sends is [that] we're moving away from viewing this as a Democrat or Republican type thing, We're moving toward viewing it as right versus wrong, and that's a big step." 3
However, subsequent events would reveal that the legislators haven't yet moved far enough to actually pass laws that would treat all the residents in Wyoming equally.
Description of the two bills and their common fate:
Bill 168 was introduced to the House Corporations Committee on JAN-28 where it was passed by a vote of 7 to 2.
The bill was then introduced to the full House
by co-sponsor Ruth Ann Petroff (R) on JAN-30 where it failed with a vote of 34 to 25, with one abstention. She said:
"I’m surprised, I had a feeling that this was going to be the time that we could get this through. Obviously, it wasn’t. ... At least we had the discussion [in the House]. Hopefully, we took one more step toward getting this passed one day."
Rep. Keith Gingery, (R) said that the state's current laws are not clear on the status of same-sex couples. This bill would have helped in child custody cares, inheritance case, etc. He said:
Some of the representatives who opposed the bill viewed it as the beginning of a slippery slope leading to same-sex marriage. They felt that it would allow court challenges by same-sex couples seeking access to marriage.
Rep. Mark Baker, (R) said:
Rep Nathan Winters (R) said that the bill would create a second class form of marriage which would leave the state vulnerable to same-sex couples seeking marriage equality. He said:
Reactions to the defeat of three bills:
- Jeran Artery, chairperson of Wyoming Equality, commented on the failure of a third bill that would have benefited the LGB community. Senate File 131 "Wyoming’s Nondiscrimination bill" narrowly failed in the Senate by a vote of 13 to 17, He also commented on House Bill 168 the "Domestic Partnerships Rights and Responsibilities Act". Both had passed out of their respective committees with significant bipartisan support, but failed at the next stage -- a vote in the full Senate or House.
His news release said:
"This year, rather than playing defense we played offense and made historic progress. While heartbroken by the defeat of the bills, the fact that they passed committee and reached a floor vote is a giant step forward on the road to equality. Wyoming Equality and our allies will not rest until all people in our state are protected from discrimination.
The advancement of both bills has spurred the commitment of all those fighting for equality in Wyoming to make every effort to ensure victory in the next legislative session. Artery reiterated this promise and said that Wyoming Equality will continue to work with its friends and allies to get these laws on the books.
'Families and individuals across Wyoming need these basic legal protections—we will continue to do the hard work needed until these bills are enacted.'
Artery also expressed his deep appreciation for all of the allies who worked with Wyoming Equality and the national organizations that supported this effort, including the work of the Human Rights Campaign and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. 'Every person deserves to be treated and judged according to merit and performance—not prejudice,' said Artery." 4
- WyWatch Family Action views their battle to prevent any form of recognition of loving, committed same-sex couples as a spiritual one against the dark evil forces of Satan. On their web site's home page, they make a partial quotation of a biblical verse in order to demonize their opposition who are working towards marriage equality. Hebrews 2:14 says:
"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."
They state in their "Legislative Action" section of their web site:
"We humbly ask for your prayers. For we do not fight against flesh and blood alone. We must remember the important spiritual battle that takes place every day at the state capitol. If you can attend committee hearings or floor debates and simply pray, it will be very appreciated by many of the believers who work hard to guard faith, family & freedom in Wyoming." 5 By "family" they obviously are referring only to those families led by opposite-sex couples.
In their web site's "Questions Answered" section on marriage, they state:
"We believe that marriage was intended by God to be a life-long relationship between one man and one woman. Such marriages best promote the nurturing and equipping of children and provide the foundation for a healthy, enduring society." 6
A recent study by Mark Regeurus of the University of Texas supports this belief that children thrive better in a family led by an opposite-sex couple when compared to children born into and raised in families led by same-sex couples. Unfortunately, his conclusions were based on a sample size of two same-sex couples, and thus is statistically meaningless. However, these findings have been contradicted by a large number of earlier studies which show that the gender of the parents have no effect on their children's outcome.
WyWatch Family Action has posted ten videos from Focus on the Family, a fundamentalist parachurch group that opposes any form of recognition of relationships within the LGB community. 6
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Joan Barron, "Wyoming gay marriage bills receive bipartisan support," Star-Tribune, 2013-JAN-17, at: http://trib.com/
- "House Bill 169", Star-Tribune, 2013-JAN-06, at: http://trib.com/
- Kevin Huelsmann, "Wyoming House kills bill to OK same-sex rights," Jackson Hole News & Guide, 2012-JAN-31, at: http://www.jhnewsandguide.com/
- "LGBT Equality Falls Short in Wyoming:
Despite Defeat, Historic Progress Made," Wyoming Equality, 2013-JAN-3, at: http://www.wyomingequality.org/ This may be a temporary URL.
- "Legislative Action," WyWatch Family Action, at: http://www.wywatch.org/
- "Issues: Marriage," WyWatch Family Action, at: http://www.wywatch.org/
Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2013-FEB-08
Latest update: 2013-FEB-09
Author: B.A. Robinson