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Wyoming House defeats domestic partnership bill

Senate committee advances non-discrimination bill
Thursday, January 31, 2013

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A bill that would have would have allowed same-sex couples in Wyoming to create domestic partnerships carrying most of the legal rights of marriage died Wednesday on a close vote in the state House of Representatives.

The vote comes just two days after a House committee shot down the full gay marriage bill by a vote of five-to-four.

Meanwhile, a bill that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is headed to the full Senate after clearing the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier in the day.

The House voted 35-24 against the domestic partnership bill. It was the first time at least in recent decades that pro-gay legislation reached a full floor debate.

Proponents said the bill would grant same-sex couples as well as other citizens a way to share their property and make health care decisions for each other.

Rep. Sue Wallis (R-Recluse), was a co-sponsor of the bill. She said her husband recently died and she had no trouble under state law taking care of arrangements and handling property issues.

But Wallis said she’s friends with an elderly gay couple, and said their relationship enjoys no such legal protection despite clear language in the state constitution that citizens should be treated equally.

“To my mind, that’s not right. That’s not fair,” Wallis said.

Opponents warned that the bill threatened to open the state to legal action seeking to force it to approve same-sex marriage.

Rep. Mark Baker (R-Rock Springs), spoke against the measure, saying: “We all know that this is about same-sex marriage and civil unions.”

Baker also contended gays and lesbians have particular health issues, and said approving the bill would increase health care costs.

“The fact of the matter is that this is something that’s pushed on us to be politically correct. ‘Let’s be the Equality State,’” Baker said, mimicking bill supporters. “The fact of the matter is that there are disastrous consequences to this bill.”

Jason Marsden, director of the Denver-based Matthew Shepard Foundation, said the vote was disappointing. He said the bill had offered the Legislature a chance to sidestep the issues of religion, marriage and social tradition while still recognizing that there are thousands of gay people in the state.

“These families are going to live and grow up and die in the absence of meaningful legal protection for their families,” Marsden said.

Sen. Chris Rothfuss (D-Laramie), sponsored the anti-discrimination measure. Speaking after the committee vote, he said he believes there’s a decent chance of the bill moving forward.

“There’s a lot of support for equality, for fair employment practices,” Rothfuss said. “And obviously, there’s an awful lot of opposition. So I would expect some passionate debate and a narrow outcome. I’m hopeful.”

Rep. Lynn Hutchings (R-Cheyenne), testified against the bill. She said she had received scurrilous emails, including some containing racial epithets, after testifying earlier in the week against the domestic partnership bill at a committee hearing.

Hutchings, who is black, had called on gays and lesbians to “please stop carpet-bagging on our civil rights movement.”

On Wednesday, she said she is a member of four protected classes because of her sex, her race, her religion and being a disabled veteran.

“You can look at some kids who were picked on for having red hair, having freckles, being poor, being short, being tall,” Hutchings said. “Are we going to add them to our protected classes also?”

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16 more reader comments:

  1. :-(

    Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 11:31am
  2. Surprise surprise

    Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 11:31am
  3. What is in Wyoming?

    Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 11:37am
  4. Same-sex marriage will be forced onto them in June, just wait. :)

    Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 11:37am
  5. Wyoming lawmakers are homophobic.

    Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 11:39am
  6. Just goes to show how unfabulous Wyoming is.

    Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 11:41am
  7. So sad, so ignorant, so short-sighted. This is not about being politically correct its about being equal and gays and lesbians in Wyoming are not equal under the law. Its a sad day. Shame on Wyoming

    Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 11:43am
  8. Not surprised. We are talking Wyoming, afterall. But, Colorado is there.

    Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 11:51am
  9. not unexpected, but very disappointing, Wyoming had a chance to make progress. so sad.

    Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 11:55am
  10. The first words that come to mind are: “homphobic Republican douchebags”.

    Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 12:24pm
  11. Although Wyoming (and Montana) are beautiful states to visit, I recommend that withholding tourist dollars in protest might get their attention.

    Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 12:31pm
  12. Bad move Wyoming lawmakers. Perhaps you should listen to your Wyoming voters. Wyoming needs to vote out some people.

    Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 12:35pm
  13. Lynn Hutchings is an ignorant c*nt. maybe she should move to Tennessee. We have a ton of legislators like her already. One more won’t make any difference.

    And “carpetbag on HER civil rights”?!?!! Does she think for one minute that the same people who hate african-americans don’t hate us just as much or more? She needs to think again. Or maybe for the first time.

    Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 1:06pm
  14. Wait you mean all 6 of them? hmmmm

    Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 1:11pm
  15. What else is new? So far behind is not even funny. IGNORANTS!

    Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 1:22pm
  16. duh – it’s wyoming. at least 150 years behind the times.

    Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 1:46pm