Wyoming: A marriage Equality State?

2013-07-14T00:00:00Z Wyoming: A marriage Equality State?ROBIN GROOSE Casper Star-Tribune Online
July 14, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered the “Defense of Marriage Act null and void. Perhaps with DOMA’s death, the “Equality State” will become a “Marriage Equality State,” or at least a state that recognizes same-sex civil unions.

Today, opposite-sex couples enjoy 1,138 special federal marriage rights, including joint tax filing, shared property rights, joint parental rights, the power to make difficult end-of-life decisions for their partners, and so much more. Now “the feds” can no longer use DOMA to deny any of these rights to same-sex couples in states that recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions.

Why did the Court kill DOMA? Simple. It’s because so many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Americans are now “out of the closet,” never to return.

So, DOMA is dead. And DOMA was dumb. Can anyone explain to Patricia and me how our 32-year marriage, and our four-generation Wyoming family, is in any way threatened by recognition of the right of same-sex couples to marry? No, we don’t need “the feds” to defend our marriage from non-existent threats.

In 2000, no state recognized same-sex marriage. Now, 13 states do. Others will follow, and follow faster now that DOMA is dead.

Oh, and in the U.S. armed forces, “don’t ask, don’t tell” is dead. Good riddance. Thank you, President Barack Obama.

I joined the University of Wyoming faculty a quarter-century ago. Then, on campus, I sometimes observed couples holding hands, in tender embrace, and kissing. And so it is today. But this has changed: Now, some of those loving couples are same-sex, publicly expressing affection. (But, young people, no matter what your sexual orientation, please do not make too much of a spectacle of yourselves, especially in my classes.)

Why is sexual orientation such a big deal in Wyoming? In terms of population, we are America’s most insignificant state. At the same time, we present a high LGBT profile. Tragically, Wyoming’s LGBT notoriety began here in Laramie in 1998 with the brutal murder of a Casper native, UW student Matthew Shepard. Since then, Mary Cheney became one of America’s most famous married lesbian mothers. And even if the box office smash was filmed in the Canadian Rockies, Annie Proulx’s story of the Brokeback Mountain boys is a Wyoming story. For some, the “Cowboy State” became the “Gay Cowboy State.”

But let us try to be honest and accurate. If cowboys and cowgirls are like Americans in other walks of life, the Cowboy State is probably 95 percent straight and 5 percent gay. Most important, together we are one, enriching one another’s lives. 100 percent Wyoming.

Today, like so many top universities nationwide, UW grants domestic partnership benefits to unmarried couples, regardless of sexual orientation. Moreover, if any UW student, staff or faculty threatens other members of the campus community on the basis of sexual orientation, they may be dismissed from the university. At UW, some sorts of intolerance are simply not tolerated.

Some people argue that the foundation of civilization is “one man-one woman” marriage. Not so. Myriad civilizations have had many marriage customs. Just one example: Our Mormon friends here in the American West revere their ancestors who practiced “one man-many women” marriage. Even if most of us disapprove of polygamy, none of us would say that Joseph Smith or Brigham Young were uncivilized. Truth be told, the foundation of civilization is agriculture and I observe that so many of my Mormon friends are very good at agriculture.

Is sexual orientation a matter of choice? No. The Rainbow Resources Center, in the UW Dean of Students Office, puts it this way on their website: “Your sexuality or gender identity is not a choice … it chooses you. It’s OK to be yourself … being LGBT is natural. Being LGBT is not a lifestyle ... it’s a life.”

No, sexual orientation is not a matter of “choice.” My own pubescent experience of a half-century ago was that girls suddenly became so interesting. For the life of me, I can’t recall deliberating over a “lifestyle choice.” Did you?

In fact, sexual orientation is a complex genetic trait, whether hetero-, homo-, bi-, or asexual. It is a complex phenotype, involving genotype, environment, and genotype by environment interactions. Yes, sexual orientation is heritable, and the variability is natural, probably involving many genes and phenomena that we geneticists refer to as penetrance, expressivity, predisposition, concordance, in utero effects and epigenetics. Gender determination is complex as well, accounting for the “T” in LGBT.

Yes, LGBT Americans are a 5 percent minority, but they are known and loved by virtually 100 percent of us who are their friends and families. And LGBT Wyomingites are in no way unnatural, or in any way unworthy of “Equal Rights” as per our state motto.

Robin Groose teaches genetics and breeds plants at the University of Wyoming.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(8) Comments

  1. mcfromkc
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    mcfromkc - July 15, 2013 3:30 pm
    cowboy logic - you're an abomination to the human race. besides, your screen name makes no sense. I seriously doubt you're a cowboy, and your posts reveal a lot of things but logic isn't one of them.
  2. Sherri Gray
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    Sherri Gray - July 15, 2013 2:55 pm
    good for you, Robin...for having the courage to stand up for equal human rights. i hope you will listen to the marriage equality song i wrote and that you'll share it not only with LGBTs but also with other open-minded folks. it has 36,000 views on youtube and is well-received all over the world :). i am a 72 y/o grandmother, and i believe in marriage equality now more than ever. i'm proud to be 'on the right side of history'.


    we'll keep trudging along...change IS happening! thanks so much,

    Sincerely, Sherri Gray

  3. Cowboy Logic
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    Cowboy Logic - July 15, 2013 7:30 am
    You're an abomination to God - may God still bless you sick and perverted people!
  4. KeithPullman
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    KeithPullman - July 15, 2013 5:58 am
    There is no good reason to deny that we must keep evolving until an adult, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, monogamy or polyamory, race, or religion is free to marry any and all consenting adults. The limited same-gender freedom to marry is a great and historic step, but is NOT full marriage equality, because equality "just for some" is not equality. Let's stand up for EVERY ADULT'S right to marry the person(s) they love. Get on the right side of history!
  5. Jeffsfla
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    Jeffsfla - July 14, 2013 3:50 pm
    Mr. Groose...thank you for a logical and insightful comment on this very divisive topic. I am glad to know, certainly in your University environment, the climate has improved so much over the last few years. It is also nice to see a "geneticist" speaking about the topic instead of the so many "knowledgeable" commenters we so often see following these articles.

    Side Oiler..don't worry. I am sure no one is going to make you enter a SSM. You may be only losing some of your elite status.

    supercelifragilistic..shame on you for the reference to "abomination" and "disgusting". This is exactly the "animus" Justice Kennedy so courageously stated in his majority opinion. Everytime you say these things you only prove his point.

  6. side oiler
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    side oiler - July 14, 2013 12:08 pm
    May God help all us straight folks.
  7. supercelifragilistic
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    supercelifragilistic - July 14, 2013 8:17 am
    Dear Robin, your theme is obviously tainted by special interest without the forethought of how "Wyoming" gained its reputation of the "Equality State". Hint to you: nothing to do sexual equality but the equality that females won in this state to vote.
    So get a clue Robin, there are God-given Rights and sexual desires and the two do no equate for equality. As marriage has always been through biblical times between one and and one woman. While same sex always abominable to God between men and between women.

    Therefore for you to equate and (somewhat vilify in the same sentence) women's right to vote - to homosexuals is rather reprehensible to say the least. I truly hope the University has some of this nation's best instructors? As your point of view surprises me in the real world of discussion - outside of Wyoming's campus.
    Therefore your attempt to somehow, in someway manipulate acceptance to a "Rodney and Bob" be made known in Wyoming and "husband Rodney and wife Bob" is a joke in thought. Just as the acts made known publicly in homosexuality is disgusting to many folks, such as myself. Please, don't gross most Wyomingites out!
  8. David Henderson
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    David Henderson - July 14, 2013 2:51 am
    In the past few years, Wyoming's legislature has seen significant growth in LGBT freedom. In 2011, a domestic partnership bill couldn't even make it out of committee, failing 4-5. This year, the same bill passed in committee 7-2, and very nearly passed in the House by a 25-34 vote, a loss by only five votes. Also this year, a marriage equality bill failed in committee 4-5. Is it possible that in 2015, that bill will make it to the floor of the House? I think it's more than just possible.
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