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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 18, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 3
'Equality State' gets serious about equality
Section One
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'Equality State' gets serious about equality

Marriage and domestic-partner bills introduced in Wyoming

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Two new bills in the Wyoming legislature would allow same-sex couples in the state to marry or form civil unions. Democratic Rep. Cathy Connolly of Laramie filed the legislation on January 14.

House Bill 169 would change the state's definition of marriage to say that marriage is a civil contract between 'two natural persons.' Current law says that marriage is a contract between 'a male and a female person.'

House Bill 168 would create a legal framework for domestic partnerships, allowing same-sex couples to 'obtain the rights, responsibilities, protections, and legal benefits provided in Wyoming for immediate family members.'

The law would consider a member of a domestic partnership to be a spouse under all state rules and laws.

THIRD TIME THE CHARM?
Connolly, who was first elected in 2008, introduced similar bills in 2009 and 2011, but they did not pass.

The measure has the backing of at least two Republicans in a legislature controlled by the GOP. Republicans outnumber Democrats in the state House by a margin of 52 to 8, and in the Senate by 26 to 4.

Republican Reps. Keith Gingery and Ruth Ann Petroff told the Jackson Hole Daily they would prefer to pass the marriage bill - HB 169 - but were willing to debate civil unions as well.

GAY POPULATION GROWING
Gingery is chair of the Judiciary Committee, which will be the first to debate the bills. He said the issue poses a legal problem that state officials need to resolve.

'The population of Gay couples in the state is increasing, and the law is not very clear about what rights they have,' he said.

HB 169 would plug same-sex marriage into the state's existing framework for marriage, Gingery said. It simply would open the rights afforded to opposite-sex couples to Gay and Lesbian couples as well.

'Legally speaking, I would prefer the Gay marriage bill,' he said. 'We already know how it works.'

IT'S NOT ABOUT RELIGION
Gingery, who is Catholic, says the question of whether to allow same-sex couples to get married in Wyoming is a civil issue, not a religious one.

'We need to separate the religious issue from the civil function of society,' he said.

'It's a basic human rights and fairness issue,' Petroff added. 'It's a basic constitutional issue. There should just be no reason why same-sex couples shouldn't have the same rights as everyone else.'

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