CHEYENNE - House Speaker Roy Cohee, R-Casper, cast the tie-breaking vote in committee Thursday to kill a bill that would have barred Wyoming from recognizing gay marriages from other states.

Wyoming already has a statute that says marriage must be between a man and a woman. Massachusetts is the only state that currently grants marriage licenses to same-sex couples; others permit civil unions, but the proposed law only pertained to gay marriages.

The House Rules Committee was evenly split on the bill when Cohee, who's also the committee chairman, voted against the measure. The bill had already been approved by the Senate.

Residents from all over the state and both sides of the issue told the committee the topic is extremely important.

Supporters of the bill said gay marriage is morally wrong and destructive to society.

Rep. Rodney "Pete" Anderson, R-Pine Bluffs, said it was a matter of protecting state rights, and Wyoming should be not required to accept the mandates of other states on this topic.

"Are we going to let other states tell us what our statutes say or not?" Anderson asked.

Opponents say the bill deprives a minority group of civil rights and is discriminatory. Some residents say the measure leads to increased violence against homosexuals and incidents of suicide.

"This is the civil rights struggle of my generation," Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, said.

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