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Wyoming defeats same-sex marriage bill, advances domestic partnership bill

Black legislator to gays and lesbians: 'Please stop carpet-bagging on our civil rights movement'
Monday, January 28, 2013

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A bill that would allow same-sex couples in Wyoming to create domestic partnerships carrying most of the legal rights of conventional marriage cleared a committee vote Monday, a move that sends pro-gay legislation on to a full floor debate in the state Legislature for the first time.

Rep. Cathy Connolly, a Laramie Democrat and a lesbian, sponsored both bills.

“Today I bring you bills that address what I consider some of the most important work that we can do as legislators: to provide for justice and opportunity for our citizens,” she said.

The House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee advanced the domestic partnership bill on a seven-to-two vote. The bill would give same-sex couples the same property and hospital-visitation rights as same-sex couples. The committee shot down the full gay marriage bill by a vote of five-to-four.

Speaking after the votes, Connolly said she expects the domestic partnership bill together with a bill pending in the Wyoming Senate that would outlaw discrimination against people on the basis of their sexual orientation both will pass the full Legislature this session. She has sponsored similar bills in past legislative sessions only to see them fail.

Connolly said she sees societal changes as responsible for the vote to advance the domestic partnership bill.

“It’s the reality that everyone now is touched by someone who is gay or lesbian in their lives, their friends, their neighbors, their churches,” she said.

In the minds of many, Wyoming’s place in the history of the gay rights movement will forever be linked to the 1998 murder of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard. Police said he was targeted for a fatal beating because of his sexual orientation. Federal hate crimes legislation now bears his name.

Jason Marsden of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, a Denver-based gay-rights organization, testified Monday that he and his partner Guy Padgett, a former mayor of Casper, have no rights as a couple in Wyoming despite having been together for nearly 15 years.

Marsden told the committee there are many similar couples in the state. “It matters to real people what you’re doing here, and it’s deeply appreciated,” he said.

Speaking after the vote to advance the domestic partnership bill, Marsden said he senses that Wyoming legislators are becoming more aware that there are same-sex couples in every county in the state. Republicans outnumber Democrats 78-12 in the Wyoming Legislature.

“With the turnover in the Legislature, there are more legislators in the majority party who actually know gay couples,” Marsden said. “Some of them have children, and I think the actual lack of legal protection for those families has come to legislators’ attention: medical decision-making, parenting issues, inheritance issues, and that Wyoming family law is just a great big roadblock to those couples sorting out their own affairs.

“I think there’s a growing sense that the appropriate, small-government solution is to let people set up relationships to the extent that they can provide their own legal protections for their own families,” Marsden said.

Opposition to both bills was strident, with many opponents testifying that they see religious and “natural law” arguments against allowing either same-sex marriage or domestic partnerships.

Rep. Lynn Hutchings (R-Cheyenne), spoke against both bills. A black woman serving her first term in the House, she called on gays and lesbians to “please stop carpet-bagging on our civil rights movement.”

Testifying while seated at a table next to Connolly, Hutchings said she has heard some gays and lesbians equate their struggle for civil rights to the efforts of mixed-race couples to secure the legal right to marry in the late 1960s.

Hutchings said being black is a result of genetics. “It is inborn,” she said. “Science does not evidence a genetic involvement to homosexuality. It is but a choice. Being black is involuntary, it is not a choice. Homosexuals may choose who they want to be.”

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne), and Rep. James Byrd (D-Cheyenne), both co-sponsors of Connolly’s bills, remarked before they voted that they found Hutching’s remarks distasteful.

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24 more reader comments:

  1. “Most” but not “All”? How can that be applauded??? Gays & lesbians are “Almost” as human as heterosexuals? Sorry, but I don’t get that logic

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 3:17pm
  2. Well, consider we are talking Wyoming……this is amazing……

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 3:20pm
  3. I don’t understand why they will not allow marriage but will allow DPs. It makes no sense whatsoever.

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 3:22pm
  4. I do not applaud their new bill. I’d say ‘FUCK YOU’ and demand my equal rights!

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 3:23pm
  5. :-(

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 3:24pm
  6. equal rights. we are all homos……homosapian duh

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 3:25pm
  7. It is Wyoming we are talking about people… were you expecting same sex marriage to be signed on rare red wood papyrus scroll with gold ink and full approval? Even domestic partnership is amazing in a state like Wyoming. Its better than what we have in Indiana… Be thankful for the small battles that we win on this war of inequality.

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 3:58pm
  8. Unfortunately we have to move forward in baby steps. And DP is a step forward. Keep pushing for change – it WILL happen!

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 4:04pm
  9. Domestic partnership is NOT amazing ANYWHERE. All Domestic Partnership is is a placebo to try and get the LGBT community to stop hounding them for our equal rights. They can keep their Domestic Partnership. All that says is they still don’t see us as equal.

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 4:07pm
  10. This is about the best Republicans can do. I have my doubts that even this will pass. Ultimately, it needs to come from the Supreme Court, and make all 50 states the same.

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 4:47pm
  11. A-Hole!

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 5:03pm
  12. Hmmm… I don’t remember there being a color assigned to the word “Civil.”

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 5:04pm
  13. i think that they forget black have gays in it but there racist gays

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 5:05pm
  14. Well then stop carpet bagging the Women’s Sufferage Movement!

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 5:05pm
  15. Then stop clinging to the coat-tails of our civil rights movement.

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 5:10pm
  16. Wyoming has finally took a step in the right direction and its only a matter of time till they will eventually allow same sex marriage.

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 5:11pm
  17. I’m so sick of all of you being so thankful for any little bone they throw you… IMHO it’s marriage or nothing… WTF would want to live in wyoming anyway?!?!?

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 5:17pm
  18. I can see your struggle to be treated equally. Yet, you don’t see mine.

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 5:24pm
  19. Correta Scott King didn’t see it that way, and anything the widow of doctor king has to say trumps her ignorant blather.

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 5:50pm
  20. Oh no he didn’t! Equal rights IS this decades civil rights movement!

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 5:56pm
  21. Shame!

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 7:02pm
  22. Since when did civil rights become a “black only” club. Equality for ALL, sir!

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 7:21pm
  23. that politician needs to be RECALLED – she obviously doesn’t understand the tenets of her employ

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 8:06pm
  24. Domestic partners are great…but it is not the equal of marriage, and will not be until lthe Feds also grant full marriage equality! There are over 1100 federal rights that are restructed to het marriage only. Change is coming!!!

    Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 9:38pm