BREAKING: Judge strikes down Wyoming’s same-sex marriage ban

safe_imageA federal judge in Wyoming ruled today, Oct. 17, that the state’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.

As we reported yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Scott W. Skavdahl heard arguments on Oct. 16 to Wyoming’s ban on same-sex marriages. Judge Skavdahl initially said that he would issue his ruling by 5:00 p.m., Monday, Oct. 20.

But his ruling came sooner than anticipated.

Skavdahl stayed his ruling until Oct. 23 pending an appeal by state government officials.

According to the Casper Star Tribune, Republican Gov. Matt Mead, who is up for re-election, said in a debate on Thursday, Oct. 16, before Skavdahl released his decision, that the state should not appeal the ruling.

—  James Russell

Wyoming federal judge to announce marriage equality decision by Monday

safe_imageMarriage equality may come to Wyoming as soon as Monday.

U.S. District Court Judge Scott W. Skavdahl heard arguments today, Oct. 16, to Wyoming’s ban on same-sex marriages. Judge Skavdahl said that he will issue his ruling by 5:00 p.m., Monday, Oct. 20.

“We are grateful that the court has moved quickly in handling our case, which affects so many families across Wyoming who are seeking equal dignity and full legal recognition. We are confident that the judge will give this important case the consideration it deserves, and we look forward to the court’s decision,” said Wyoming Equality Executive Director Jeran Artery in a statement.

The case was brought by Wyoming Equality and four same-sex couples who requested an immediate order directing state officials to comply with two decisions of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit establishing that a state’s refusal to allow same-sex couples to marry violates the U.S. Constitution.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear two appeals from the Tenth Circuit striking down marriage equality bans, meaning all states within the Tenth Circuit, including Wyoming, must comply with those decisions.

“The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that state laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying violate the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection of the laws. The State of Wyoming is obligated to follow the law as interpreted by the Tenth Circuit,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights attorney Chris Stoll. NCLR is one of the organizations representing the plaintiffs.

In 30 states, same-sex couples have the freedom to marry: AK, CA, CO, CT, DE, HI, ID, IA, IL, IN, ME, MD, MA, MN, NC, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OK, OR, PA, RI, UT, VA, VT, WA, WV and WI.

In an additional five states, including Wyoming, federal appellate rulings have set a binding precedent in favor of the freedom to marry, meaning the path is cleared for the freedom to marry there: AZ, KS, MT, SC, and WY.

In an additional 8 states, judges have issued rulings in favor of the freedom to marry, with many of these rulings now stayed as they proceed to appellate courts. In Texas and four other states, judges have struck down marriage bans — AR, FL, KY, MI, and TX — judges have struck down marriage bans. In three states — LA, OH and TN — judges have issued more limited pro-marriage rulings.

In Missouri, the marriages of same-sex couples legally performed in other states are respected.

Courts have cases pending, but have yet to rule, in seven states: AL, GA, MO, MS, NB, ND and SD.

—  James Russell

Take Action in Wyoming to Stop SJ 5 and HB 74

This week, the Wyoming House Judicial Committee passed 6 votes to 3, SJ 5, a measure to place a constitutional amendment on the 2012 ballot barring same-sex marriage. Passed by the full Senate last week, the bill is expected to be voted on by the full House in the coming days. Now is your chance to tell your representatives in Wyoming to do the right thing.

HB 74, which would prevent same-sex marriages performed in other states from being recognized in Wyoming has passed the House and is on its way to the Senate. Make sure your Senator knows that you support equality and urge them to do the same.

Both bills deny Wyoming families the dignity that comes from having their relationships recognized. No child of a same-sex family should have to grow up feeling that somehow their family is less loving or legitimate than their friends and neighbors.

If you or someone you know is in Wyoming, take action NOW by sending a letter to your legislators to defeat SJ 5 and HB 74. To send a letter to your legislators in Wyoming, click here.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  David Taffet

Wyoming House Passes Ban on Recognition of Same-Sex Unions

Wyoming's HB 74 passed the House on its third reading Monday. The bill bans recognition of same-sex marriages and civil unions from outside the state:

Wyoming House Bill 74 now heads to the Senate, where its chances for passage appear good.

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.

Opponents said the bill is unnecessary, violates the rights of gays and lesbians to marry, and would create havoc for legally married out-of-state gay couples traveling in Wyoming.


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Wyoming House Passes Anti-Marriage Bill

Thanks to a newly-elected Tea Party-backed GOP majority, the Wyoming House today passed a bill banning the recognition of out of state same-sex marriages and civil unions. Similar bills had failed twice in recent years.

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.

The bill is expected to pass easily in the state Senate.

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

What’s Brewing: Daniel Hernandez, Fort Worth Episcopal diocese; marriage battles intensify

1. In a victory for LGBT-affirming Episcopalians, a conservative Fort Worth group that left the church over its acceptance of gays has been ordered to surrender the property it tried to steal from the six-county diocese. A state district judge on Friday ordered the group to turn over the property — which includes 55 parishes and missions as well as several schools — within 60 days. The group says it plans to appeal the decision, but hopefully this ruling will mean schools like St. Vincent’s can no longer discriminate against 4-year-olds like Olivia Harrison (above) who happen to have lesbian parents.

2. Daniel Hernandez Jr., the gay intern credited with saving the life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, will sit next to first lady Michelle Obama during Tuesday’s State of the Union address. Tuesday also happens to be Hernandez’s 21st birthday.

3. Battles over same-sex marriage are intensifying in Maryland, Wyoming and Iowa.

—  John Wright

Do Civil Unions Have a Chance in Wyoming?

Despite the advancement of a bill that would prohibit Wyoming from recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, and a state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman, could there be support for a civil union law?

The Star Tribune seems to think so: Protest_wyoming

Many legislators who voted earlier this week in favor of House Bill 74, which prohibits recognition of same-sex marriages from out of state, have said they see civil unions as an acceptable compromise. And while Gov. Matt Mead said he believes marriage should only be between a man and a woman, he wouldn’t rule out supporting civil union legislation should it reach his desk.

"I’m getting a stronger sense that civil unions will pass," said state Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, a supporter of gay marriage.

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.

On Friday, the Wyoming Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation by a 3-2 vote that would ban same-sex marriage in the state. However, before the vote they amended the legislation to potentially allow for civil unions.

Protests took place on Friday and Saturday, objecting to HB 74.


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Wyoming Lawmakers to Introduce Anti-Gay Marriage Bill

Wyoming lawmakers plan to introduce legislation to bar the state from recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, the Torrington Telegram reports:

Petersen State Rep. Owen Petersen of (R-Mountain View) and State Sen. Curt Meier (R-LaGrange) are taking the initiative to reevaluate the state’s definition of marriage. The two lawmakers plan to co-sponsor a resolution at the 2011 General Session that would allow voters to decide whether or not the state should give constitutional authority to same-sex marriage. 

Currently, state law defines marriage as “the legal union between a man and woman,” but Wyoming still accepts marriages performed in other states. This puts out-of-state gay marriage licenses into question. 

A resolution would clarify the outcome when gay couples enter Wyoming with marriage licenses obtained elsewhere. Ultimately, it would also reaffirm that the state—not the federal court system—has the last word on the constitutional authority of gay marriage.

Regarding the validity of a same-sex marriage carrying into Wyoming, Meier says, “there is a conflict in the state statute.” He continued, “On one hand, it says that it is not valid. On the other hand, there’s a statutory fix and not a constitutional fix. The resolution would take care of that loophole.”

Wyoming In 2010, a Cheyenne, Wyoming couple filed suit challenging the constitutionality of Wyoming's marriage law, but after "the lawsuit came under fire from some gay-rights activists who worried about its legal arguments and Shupe-Roderick’s history of litigation and criminal activities," it was dropped.


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Meet The Wyoming Lawmakers Who Want Voters To Constitutionally Ban Gay Marriage

Wyoming lawmakers, led by State Rep. Owen Petersen of (R-Mountain View) and State Sen. Curt Meier (R-LaGrange), plan to propose legislation next year that would let voters enact a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Under state law, Wyoming currently recognizes only man-woman marriages, but by accepting other states' unions it technically accepts gay marriages too. Petersen and Meier want to put a stop to that.


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Queerty

—  admin

Wyoming GOP Plans To Block Recognition Of Gay Marriages From Other States

GOP lawmakers in Wyoming plan to introduce legislation banning the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states. Such a move failed in 2009, but the plan is to put the issue to voters.

State law defines marriage as a legal union between a man and woman, but Wyoming also recognizes marriages performed in other states. Rep. Owen Petersen of Mountain View says that raises questions about what happens when gay couples from other states move to Wyoming. Petersen and Sen. Curt Meier of LaGrange say they plan to co-sponsor a resolution that would let voters decide whether to amend the state constitution to clarify.

Joe. My. God.

—  admin