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Wyo. judge allows challenge to state’s same-sex marriage ban to go forward

Tuesday, July 29, 2014
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Updated: 5:00 p.m. MDT

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A state judge declined Tuesday to suspend a lawsuit contesting a Wyoming law that specifies marriage is limited to one man and one woman.

Wyoming-flagInstead, Laramie County District Court Judge Thomas Campbell said at a hearing he will consider any additional facts in the case and in November will either rule on the law on the spot or allow the case to go ahead.

“I think you all assume too much,” Campbell said after both sides argued that federal lawsuits elsewhere either have resolved the question of gay marriage in Wyoming or soon will.

Attorneys for Wyoming had argued that suspending the case would save time and effort while those cases move ahead. Likewise, the plaintiffs in the case argue along similar lines that Campbell should simply rule in their favor.

But Campbell said it’s not yet known for certain that the U.S. Supreme Court will consider gay marriage, such as by examining a case out of Utah in which a federal appeals court in Denver ruled June 25 in favor of allowing gay marriage.

In Wyoming, four gay couples and the gay-rights advocacy group Wyoming Equality sued Gov. Matt Mead, Laramie County Clerk Debbye Lathrop and other state and local officials in March. The plaintiffs say that by not being allowed to marry, they are denied basic rights and privileges afforded to straight couples, such as the ability to be included in a family health insurance plan.

An attorney for the state, Jared Crecelius, argued it would be more efficient for everybody if Campbell suspended the case pending the outcome of other gay-marriage lawsuits further ahead in line to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

If Campbell doesn’t suspend the case, Crecelius argued, he should give the state more time to collect evidence that could involve whether the plaintiffs have standing to sue. “We need to have a period where we can conduct our discovery and fully investigate these claims,” he said.

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Campbell granted that request, setting out a 90-day period for additional evidence collection.

Crecelius declined to comment after the hearing.

An attorney for the plaintiffs, James Lyman, urged Campbell not to suspend the case. A lot could happen to any of the four couples in the year it might take for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on gay marriage, he said.

“Our plaintiffs are suffering harms every single day,” Lyman said.

Jeran Artery, chairman of Wyoming Equality, said he was pleased Campbell didn’t suspend the case and might rule on Wyoming’s marriage law this fall.

Follow this case: Courage v. Wyoming.

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