Legal systems and belief systems continue to clash.
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.
On Sept. 24, 2010, Wyoming and nine other states signed a brief that the federal court system violated its judicial authority when it ruled that the U.S. constitution should include same-sex couples in the realm of legal 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.”
In 2009, legislators proposed letting voters decide on an amendment to the state constitution that would disregard out-of-state same-sex marriages. However, that legislation failed. In order for Petersen and Meier’s proposal to go on Wyoming’s next election ballot, as Prop. 8 did in California, it would require a two-thirds-majority vote and no government vetoes.
“Frankly, we’ve had trouble even getting it out of the committee,” said Meier. “In the last several years when any social issue has been introduced, it’s gone to the Education Committee, and they’ve killed it. Perhaps this year we could actually get a hearing on it.”
The first legal challenge to Wyoming’s gay marriage ban occurred on Aug. 13, 2010, when gay couple David Shupe-Roderick, 25, and Ryan Dupree, 21, from Cheyenne filed a federal lawsuit against the ban, claiming it detracted from their constitutional rights.
The couple dropped the lawsuit less than a month later, due to criminal history and pressure from gay-rights activists who questioned their legal claims.
“I really think the resolution I’m bringing forward is about the right of the people to vote on this issue,” said Meier. “We need to define Wyoming’s community standard and give people the opportunity to vote.”
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