CHEYENNE — A bill that would allow same-sex couples in Wyoming to create domestic partnerships carrying most of the legal rights of conventional marriage cleared a state House committee vote Monday after a sometimes contentious, sometimes bizarre public debate.

The move sends legislation on to a full floor debate in the state Legislature for the first time.

“This is a forward step,” said Rep. Cathy Connolly, a Laramie Democrat and a lesbian. “It’s important that our relationships are recognized. These are the kinds of statutes that both protect us and recognize us.”

Connolly sponsored House Bill 168, which cleared the House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee by a 7-2 vote. She also sponsored a full gay marriage bill, which the committee eliminated Monday by a 5-4 vote.

The votes were taken after a two-hour hearing before nearly 100 people in a Herschler Building basement meeting room in the state Capitol complex.

Speaking after the votes, Connolly said she expects both the domestic partnership bill and a bill pending in the Wyoming Senate that would outlaw discrimination against people on the basis of their sexual orientation to pass the full Legislature this session. She has sponsored similar bills in past legislative sessions only to see them fail.

Connolly said the bills are important for many reasons, including economic development.

The state wants the highest quality and most progressive companies to locate here, Connolly said. Those companies want good roads and broadband, and they want to make sure the employees they bring here will find this is the best place to raise their families.

“And some of their best employees are going to be gays and lesbians,” Connolly said. “We know that.”

The domestic partnership bill creates a civil legal framework for partners by filing with the county clerks. The bill excludes minors and doesn’t allow for religious officiating.

The failed same-sex marriage bill would have changed the definition of marriage under Wyoming law to read “two natural persons,” rather than a man and woman.

Although the public hearing was held on both bills, most of the opposition appeared to be targeted at the gay marriage bill.

Supporters included Dr. Jason Bloomberg, who runs a medical clinic in Cheyenne. He said the lack of legal recognition of same-sex couples can hamper their access to health care.

The Rev. Audette Fulbright said many members her congregation at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Cheyenne are gay and have no legal protection.

Jason Marsden, director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation in Denver, said he and his partner of 15 years, former Casper Mayor Guy Padgett, are essentially “legal strangers” because their union is not recognized by law.

“There are a lot of couples like us,” Marsden said.

Marsden said Wyoming law is “just a great big roadblock” to gay and lesbian couples, some of which have children, sorting out their own affairs, from medical decision-making to inheritence issues.

“I think there’s a growing sense that the appropriate, small-government solution is to let people set up relationships to the extent that they can provide their own legal protections for their own families,” he said.

Several legislators also testified for the bills, including Sen. Bernadine Craft, D-Rock Springs, who is studying to become an Episcopalian minister.

“I don’t know what we’re afraid of,” she said, “This is about human rights.”

Rep. Lynn Hutchings, R-Cheyenne, spoke against both bills. A black woman serving her first term in the House, she called on gays and lesbians to “please stop carpet-bagging on our civil rights movement.”

Testifying while seated at a table next to Connolly, Hutchings said she has heard some gays and lesbians equate their struggle for civil rights to the efforts of mixed-race couples to secure the legal right to marry in the late 1960s.

Hutchings said being black is a result of genetics. “It is inborn,” she said. “Science does not evidence a genetic involvement to homosexuality. It is but a choice. Being black is involuntary, it is not a choice. Homosexuals may choose who they want to be.”

Hutchings said the gay lifestyle is harmful to the mind, spirit and body, noting the number of cases of AIDS.

Later, one of the members of the committee, Rep. Jim Byrd, D-Cheyenne, who also is black, said he found Hutchings’ remarks distasteful.

“To me an injustice is an injustice. Just because they weren’t lynched from trees does not mean they have not suffered,” he said of the gay and lesbian community members.

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, also said he found Hutchings’ comments distasteful.

Another opponent of the bills was Robin Goodspeed, a self-described formerly active member of Oregon’s gay and lesbian communities.

Goodspeed, who moved to Wyoming six months ago, said she knew the way she was living was wrong.

“I finally came to the realization that I was responsible for my own life,” she said.

She disputed the notion of a “queer” gene.

“Why would the state of Wyoming contemplate changing the definition of marriage from a man and a woman?” she said.

Star-Tribune capital bureau reporter Joan Barron contributed to this story.

Contact capital bureau reporter Joan Barron at 307-632-1244 or joan.barron@trib.com

(25) comments

kit4life
kit4life

"Change is the result of all true learning," I'd like to reply to Lynn Hutchings and Robin Goodspeed first thing. According to her misrepresentation of the Bible and God, let me say this--with your type of thinking Ms. Hutchings and ms. Goodspeed, that makes the lesbians God's chosen few then. There has never been a case of woman to woman transfer of AIDS, or any other STD. As for your ignorant remarks about it not being genetic, maybe you should try this thing called READING--in science journals it is proven to have genetic links--including that when a woman is pregnant the female body sees a male child being carried as a foreign object--no truer statement there--and the more males you have the more likely you are to have a gay boy--gee, Ms. Hutchings and ms. Goodspeed how many boys do you have? Wyoming will continue to be the laughingstock of the union until they grow up, step into the 21st century and stop being so redneck backwards in their actions and thinking. Unfortunately for us, it's people like little old Ms. Hutchings and Goodspeed who keeps us there. Ms. Hutchings and ms. Goodspeed, your ignorance is truly offensive on all levels. "Until all of us are free, none of us are free." Look up who said the quote. He freed your people, now free ours. As for being compared to mixed marriages, it’s the truth. We are mixed, and we vote so kiss your seats goodbye in the next election. why change the law from one man and one woman? Really? Are you that ignorant? If you see your way of living as "wrong," maybe you should seek some heavy duty counseling. That Constitution of ours protects ALL people, it makes all of us Equal. Isn't it funny how Wyoming touts being the Equality State--now there's a joke. And so are you as representatives of all people in this state...

IdrahaJe
IdrahaJe

kit4life,

Do you know what is truly offensive? Name calling, and making insinuations about someone's intelligence, that is TRULY offensive. You might want to stop the ignorant talk, until you can allow logic to control your thoughts, instead of emotion.

You know, or I am telling you now, that we are called the Equality state because we were the first state to allow women to vote. Wyoming is not the only state in the country to not recognize homosexual marriage. So the laughingstock is the fact that you are attempting to pole vault over a mouse dropping.

Take a deep breathe, and relax. You might need to act on some of the advice you seem so willing to give to others. Maybe you should see a therapist.

Panhead
Panhead

Kit4life, your comparision is flawed, you degrade people that are agianst your way of life and call us bigots, but who is the real bigots here. I personally feel that your lifestyle is revoltive and wrong so I'm considerd a bigot, on the other hand you force your way of life down our throat every chance you get, call us names and degrade us bcause we don't condone your lifestyle. I would like to enlighten you, I'm not out there fighting your lifestyle but you are fighting my beliefs calling me names and reflecting how much of a bigot I am. You have the right to believe what you want gauranteed by the constitution I in turn have the right to believe what I want gauranteed by the constitution. Live with it BIGOT.

dze92
dze92

The difference here is that you are trying to block rights from others. Who I chose to love and marry is my choice, you don't agree with gay marriage, well don't get one and no one is going to force you to attend one (in fact I am sure they would thank you for not). How is anyone forcing this down your throat? Don't like seeing it in tv? choose a different show. You have a choice on what you chose to expose yourself to.

Casper Kid
Casper Kid

As a teacher who has numerous gay and lesbian students, it pains me (and them) to know that they are denied equitable rights. They are young adults who are smart, capable, and compassionate citizens, yet they are being told that they are legally "less than" others. I applaud Wyoming for recognizing the need for equality. For those who find same-sex relationships problematic on religious grounds, they are perfectly welcome to hold those beliefs. However, they are not welcome to deny others their civil rights. I do wish both sides of the issue could up the level of discourse to have an earnest discussion, instead of slinging names.

supercalifragilistic
supercalifragilistic

Then why don't you teach and keep out of "indoctrinating" your students entrusted to you? Its not the people or the law that makes those living an alternative lifestyle but, the condemnation feeling their conscious' feels realizing their differences.

Now, I ask that you do what you are "professionally paid" to do, and teach them the curriculum you're paid to teach with the public tax $dollars the overtaxed citizen is paying with.

bane of trout
bane of trout

Super, reread Casper Kid's post. He/she very clearly states that these issues arise in the curriculum. Or would you prefer that we don't teach our kids to read newspapers or legislative bills?

This idea that teachers indoctrinate students into some black helicopter/gay cult/ liberal commie plot is just plain stupid and more importantly, untrue. No teacher worth a darn does that, and if they have, I fully support whatever reprimand they get. For the record, I have seen teachers get called to the carpet for proselytizing, which I suppose is merely more evidence of a cover up in some people's worlds.

supercalifragilistic
supercalifragilistic

Thank you for "exaggerating my comment" as many extremes have tried painting me. I noticed you defended and "spoke" of everything except for "tax payer paid curriculum" that tax payer money is use to educate young minds with.

The school zone is for educating ... off the school zone a teacher on "his or her time" can answer question or even protest with that minor.

supercalifragilistic
supercalifragilistic

bane of trout
Sorry for the harsh words .. I misread your post.
My point was to elaborate on the fact that curriculum does not nor should not have issues as this personal lifestyles, unless that curriculum has been doctored up purposely?
And if it has been doctored up for the sole purpose of indoctrination? Then, this teacher should be brought up before the school district.
Once again, my apologies for misreading your commend at such an early hour in the am.

Casper Kid
Casper Kid

Anyone in the general public has access to curriculum descriptors via their school district website. A class on argumentation necessarily deals with debatable topics-- which based on the headlines of any given day can include discussion about same-sex marriage, immigration reform, fiscal cliffs, presidential elections, gun control, or even raising chickens in the city limits. Again, I stand by my assertion that teaching students to think independently about local and world events, and to interact responsibly in discussions with their peers, no matter what the topic, is part of education. My job is not to tell students what to think, to make them agree with me, or even to tell them my opinion-- I personally don't know any teacher who thinks that "indoctrinating" students is what this job is about. However, letting them discuss the relevant issues of the day to teach them analytical and communication skills so that later they can interact in the "real world" in which they will encounter complexities and disagreements-- that is a profoundly important part of the job. I don't think censoring the news does favors for anyone, regardless of their beliefs.

supercalifragilistic
supercalifragilistic

Your job is to teach the curriculum without add on subjects to that same curriculum. You are a fake and a phony ... probably not a teacher in Wyoming for that matter but, posing as one.
And I stand by what I say regarding what you claim - as it would seem to me that $3 bill would have more validity than your posts.

dze92
dze92

Allowing students to discuss current issues is not "indoctrinating" students, its called teaching them to be critical thinkers. You really want people graduating with nothing more then memorized facts? as long as the teacher is not interjecting their beliefs, There is no problem with this very good educational exercise.

supercalifragilistic
supercalifragilistic

Sorry, but political indoctrination has never been a curriculum that I knew of. Only agenda driven bureaucrats will try to wiggle into something their not being paid to do.

Panhead
Panhead

As a teacher you have been entrusted to teach our children math, english, history, and the subjects that can enhance there education. You were not employed to teach our children your personal beliefs, your religion, your sexual preferance or any other personal beliefs that you may have. You have no say in this matter. Do what you have been hired for or quit.

Casper Kid
Casper Kid

Education does not occur in a vacuum. In a history class, current events are a salient part of the curriculum-- kids read the newspaper everyday and find articles they want to discuss. No matter their personal beliefs, they are expected to be critical readers, writers, and thinkers, and to interact with their peers in a respectful and academic manner, no matter what the headline of the day may be. That is the expectation in the classroom and that IS my job-- to teach students how to question what they read and to communicate well and effectively.

I have never talked to my students about my personal beliefs. However, what I do hear from them in discussions is remarkable. And yes, occasionally students will bring up their life experiences, which for some might reference their orientation, whether in a discussion about bullying, government policy, or civil rights. They all have different backgrounds and unique voices, and rarely do they all agree (and why would we want them to?).

Shouldn't intellectual curiosity and responsible discussion be traits we foster in our students and future citizens?

supercalifragilistic
supercalifragilistic

Teach curriculum not ideology

IdrahaJe
IdrahaJe

Numerous? Really? Numerous? an adjective meaning "Great in number; many." Maybe you mistyped it. I would venture a guess that you have many students that are heterosexual, not homosexual. Please keep the grandstanding and the overreaction to a minimum.

dze92
dze92

Numerous does not equal majority, 10 students could be seen as many, especially when you consider 20 years ago there would have been one, maybe. It is refreshing that people are more accepting and not as discriminatory as they were 20 years ago when the students where GLBT were there but just forced to hide who they were.

and on a side note my coments have been way more on track all of yours have been personal attacks. Really? telling people to seek therapy?

IdrahaJe
IdrahaJe

dze92,

Please reread through the posts. Your friend and comrade is the one that brought up the therapy issue first.I was simply returning the favor. If you don't like that comment, then stop making insinuations that people you disagree with are crazy.

The conversation that we are having is about today. Not 20 years ago.

supercalifragilistic
supercalifragilistic

Casper Kid, after further review of all your posts, I can tell "an actor" when I read a script, as you have weaved here. You are no teacher --- you are a wannabe screen play actor playing your supposed teacher role in a "make believe class room of homosexual students" from Wyoming, as you come across.
That being said, how shameful and pitiful of deceptive rants you presented, getting folks to discuss your "poor students" in my class discussing homosexual lifestyles during class time, scenario. You really do bring shame to the homosexual community with stunts like that.

You are purposely trying to keep the conversation of the homosexual community up for the purpose of the next agenda. That next agenda is for hoping and manipulating the public sentiment towards homosexual marriage.
Something that is still stricken in Wyoming, between "one man and one woman" that advocates, such as yourself despises. By using "civil rights" as an issue in sexual desires.

You know - I was born at 10:30pm at night --- but it was not last night.

Panhead
Panhead

Just a note Rep. Connolly is the represenative that thinks you can rehabilitate pedofiles. Off the subject but true.

dze92
dze92

And that has anything to do with this discussion how? Stop attacking the people and debate the actual issue.

IdrahaJe
IdrahaJe

dze92,

And please, expound on how your comment has anything to do with this discussion? I see that you are not very good at not attacking people and sticking to the debate. You might want to lay off the personal attacks until you have a better handle on your anger.

supercalifragilistic
supercalifragilistic

Panhead, thanks for bringing up that point.
Rep. Connolly is a practicing lesbian of the homosexual community - you have to hand it to her, she really believes in "what she is and does". With that said, I'm wondering if she also has a heart for young girls as well, from her past?

After all, UW sports has had such difficulty getting fans to games there. Seems like its always guys showing up ... just sayin'

supercalifragilistic
supercalifragilistic

Well panhead, eventually our law makers will get so tired of this that they'll present legislation to put this "rotating issue" to rest by placing it on the ballot. Let the people of Wyoming decide what's acceptable from what's not within this state's boundaries. Since its obvious that "civil liberties" are not the issue.

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