CHEYENNE — Less than a month after filing the first-ever legal challenge to Wyoming’s gay marriage law, a Cheyenne couple have dropped their lawsuit.
Plaintiffs David Shupe-Roderick, 25, and Ryan W. Dupree, 21, withdrew the lawsuit in federal court on Friday.
The lawsuit, filed Aug. 13, alleged that Wyoming’s law defining marriage as being a contract solely “between a male and a female person” was unconstitutional.
However, the lawsuit came under fire from some gay-rights activists who worried about its legal arguments and Shupe-Roderick’s history of litigation and criminal activities.
Shupe-Roderick did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.
The couple, who had planned to represent themselves, filed the lawsuit after claiming that the Laramie County Clerk's Office refused three times to issue them a marriage license.
“We determined that a lawsuit was the only possible way for them to get to recognize us as people,” Shupe-Roderick said after the lawsuit was filed. “I think it’s time that Wyoming lives up to its title. You know they call themselves the Equality State? Well, they’re not so equal.”
However, Laramie County Clerk Debbie Lathrop, a defendant in the lawsuit, said neither she nor any of her staff had any recollection of the couple applying for a marriage license from her office.
Several Wyoming gay-rights activists also said the lawsuit would raise fears among lawmakers and voters that a federal judge would force Wyoming to recognize gay marriages. Those fears, they said, would make a gay marriage ban a political issue in this year’s elections and would undo years of lobbying to gradually make inroads on a number of gay-rights issues, from same-sex adoption to banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Shupe-Roderick had also served four years in the Wyoming State Penitentiary after he, his brother and their two girlfriends left Cheyenne in a rental car in January 2004. They were eventually caught with the car in Arkansas. He’s being prosecuted for allegedly stating falsely on his application for a notary public license that he wasn’t a convicted felon.
Besides the gay marriage case, Shupe-Roderick has filed five other lawsuits in the past three years. A sixth case is pending in federal court in which Shupe-Roderick is suing “Wyoming Child Support Services” — an apparent reference to the Wyoming Department of Family Services — for allegedly intercepting a $643 federal tax refund to pay child support to his ex-wife.
Several gay-rights activists weren't available for comment Wednesday.
Becky Vandeberghe of WyWatch Family Action, a Wyoming-based family-values group that opposes gay marriage, said while the lawsuit “was misguided from the beginning,” it served as “a wake-up call” that Wyoming’s long-standing definition of marriage is under attack.
Vandeberghe said her group will push during next year’s legislative session to add a clause to the Wyoming Constitution defining marriage as a union only between a man and a woman.
Such a resolution failed in the state House last year; Vandeberghe said it’s impossible to tell whether the aborted lawsuit will affect the resolution’s chances next year until after the November elections.
But already, she said, her organization has been receiving phone calls and e-mails expressing support, and she’s talked to several state lawmakers who have heard about the issue from their constituents.
“It has raised awareness of the issue in the political world, as far as elections and where candidates stand,” Vandeberghe said.
Contact capital bureau reporter Jeremy Pelzer at (307) 632-1244 or email@example.com.