Opponents of anti-gay-marriage bill rally in Casper
Protesters gather at Pioneer Park on Saturday afternoon to speak out against House Bill 74, which will ban the recognition of same-sex marriages performed outside of Wyoming. A third hearing on the bill is scheduled for Monday in the Wyoming House. (Dan Cepeda/Star-Tribune) DAN CEPEDA

Armed with cardboard signs, tambourines and cheers, opponents of the "anti-gay marriage bill" smiled and waved to passersby on Center Street.

There were more honks than stares for the crowd of about 50 people in Pioneer Park on Saturday afternoon.

The "equality rally" opposed House Bill 74, which passed its first two votes in the state House of Representatives Thursday and Friday. The bill prohibits the recognition of same-sex marriages from outside of Wyoming.

Kate McLemore, of Casper, organized the rally to show Wyoming that citizens outside of Cheyenne oppose the bill.

Participants held signs that said "Civil rights for Wyomingites" and "Protect our people like we protect guns" and waved to passersby on Center Street. They said most of the reaction was positive.

Many people oppose the bill, and the state Legislature doesn't reflect the community, said Pamela Kandt, who unsuccessfully ran for the state House in 2010.

"All the social conservatives ran on a platform of no more government intrusion," Kandt said. "They're not consistent with the philosophy that got them elected. We just need to not mess with the laws until the Supreme Court deals with it."

Leah Janssen, of Casper, agreed that state lawmakers supporting this bill increase government intrusion into people's lives. She attended the rally because "silence is acceptance."

"Wyoming is never on the map -- we don't even get weather coverage," Janssen said. "If our slogan is 'The Equality State,' we need to show that."

Rep. Owen Petersen, R-Mountain View, the bill's sponsor, said the legislation is needed to resolve a conflict in state law: Marriage is defined as a contract "between a male and a female person" but any valid marriage performed in other states is also recognized.

Opponents of the bill said it would weaken other state's laws and invite lawsuits from married gay couples in the state and other states.

"It's a right that everyone should be able to get married," said rally participant Brett Governanti. "Not recognizing laws made in other states sets for bad precedent."

If HB74 passes the House on its third reading Monday, it will be debated in the Senate. Kandt hopes to stop it in the House, asking people to call and e-mail their representatives this weekend.

She said equality for gay people is the civil rights movement of today and was confident that equal rights will be granted.

"This is a prejudice we will outgrow because the people carrying the banner of intolerance are going to be gone in a matter of years," Kandt said. "Young people will be the ones in charge."

Reach education reporter Jackie Borchardt at (307) 266-0593 or at jackie.borchardt@trib.com. Read her blog at trib.com/reportcard and follow her on Twitter @JMBorchardt

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