CHEYENNE – Two bills before the Wyoming Legislature target gay marriage in very different ways.
House Bill 108, sponsored by Rep. Gerald Gay, R-Casper, prohibits the state from recognizing gay marriages performed in other states, while HB87, sponsored by Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, makes gay marriage legal in Wyoming.
Connolly’s bill substitutes the words “a male and a female” with “two natural persons.” If Connolly’s bill looks familiar, it is. Last year she introduced an identical bill.
This year’s bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Keith Gingery, R-Jackson; Ruth Ann Petroff, R-Jackson; Mary Throne, D-Cheyenne; Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne; and Sen. Bernadine Craft, D-Rock Springs.
This year, the Wyoming House is defeating many bills that have nothing to do with the state’s budget. The session can last a maximum of only 20 days. But Connolly believes her bill still has a chance.
“I’m always hopeful,” she said. “I joke, ‘I’m a Democrat in the Wyoming Legislature. I’m the definition of optimism.’”
Gay said his bill would clarify how Wyoming courts are to proceed with divorces of partners whose same-sex marriages were performed outside the state or even outside the country.
The bill also prohibits the state from recognizing polygamous unions, he said. Although no states currently allow bigamy, some Middle Eastern countries allow it, he said.
“It locks up the courts,” he said.
That bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Kathy Davison, R-Kemmerer; Marti Halverson, R-Etna, and Allen Jaggi, R-Evanston.
HB108 doesn’t just affect divorce. It addresses parental rights of gay couples, inheritance rights and the rights to make medical and end-of-life decisions for a partner, said Jason Marsden, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which promotes gay rights.
“It won’t help anyone at all,” he said. “All it would do is damage one community.”
The foundation supports Connolly’s bill for gay marriage.
Miles Dahlby, lobbyist for the Casper-based Family Coalition, which supports traditional marriage, opposes both gay marriage bills.
“This is a budget session that should be just for budget issues, for the sake of the sanity of our citizen legislators, who have as much to do as in a general session but only half the time to do it in,” he said.