LGBT rights in Wyoming
|LGBT rights in Wyoming|
|Same-sex sexual activity legal?||Legal since 1977|
|Discrimination protections||None (see below)|
|Wyo. Stat. Ann. §20-1-101, 2003 limits marriage to man/woman|
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of Wyoming may face some legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Same-sex sexual activity is legal in Wyoming, but same-sex couples and families headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for all of the same protections available to opposite-sex married couples.
Law regarding same-sex sexual activity
Wyoming is the only U.S. state that has no published sodomy cases.
Recognition of same-sex relationships
Wyoming does not allow same-sex couples to marry in the state. Wyoming law (Wyo. Stat. Ann. §20-1-101, 2003) states, "Marriage is a civil contract between a male and a female person to which the consent of the parties capable of contracting is essential." Wyoming law also states that "All marriage contracts which are valid by the laws of the country in which contracted are valid in this state," and does not specifically exempt same-sex marriages from that recognition. (Wyo. Stat. Ann. §20-1-111) Some interpret this as allowing the state recognize of same-sex marriages celebrated elsewhere.
On February 22, 2007, a bill to prohibit Wyoming from recognizing same-sex marriages from other states was defeated by one vote in a committee of the Wyoming House of Representatives. In 2009, the House considered an amendment to the state constitution, House Joint Resolution 17, known as the "Defense of Marriage" resolution, defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. After an intense, emotional debate on the matter, the measure was defeated in a vote by the full House on February 6, with 35 votes against and 25 in favor.
On January 24, 2011, the House passed a bill that would prohibit the state from recognizing same-sex marriages performed outside the state. On February 18, it was passed by the Senate, but after further legislative action it failed. On January 27, 2011, the Senate approved, by two-thirds majority, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The proposal died in the House.[dead link] On January 28, 2011, the House Judiciary Committee voted down a bill legalizing civil unions.
On January 14, 2013, legislators filed two bills, one to establish same-sex marriage in Wyoming by defining marriage as a civil contract between "two natural persons", the other to create domestic partnerships to allow same-sex couples to "obtain the rights, responsibilities, protections and legal benefits provided in Wyoming for immediate family members." Legislators who favor same-sex marriage supported the legislative tactic of offering the alternatives. Governor Matt Mead said he favored domestic partnerships. On January 28, a House committee defeated the marriage bill 5-4 and approved the domestic partnership bill 7-2. The House considered both bills, rejecting domestic partnerships on January 30, in a 24-35 vote and defeating same-sex marriage on February 13 by a vote of 17-41.
In November 2010, a district judge ruled that he lacked jurisdiction to grant a divorce to two Wyoming women who married in Canada in 2006. On June 6, 2011, the Supreme Court of Wyoming in Christiansen v. Christiansen unanimously reversed a district court decision and granted the divorce. Its decision said: "Nothing in this opinion should be taken as applying to the recognition of same-sex marriages legally solemnized in a foreign jurisdiction in any context other than divorce. The question of recognition of such same-sex marriages for any other reason, being not properly before us, is left for another day."
On August 13, 2010, David Shupe-Roderick, 25, and Ryan Dupree, 21, a gay couple from Cheyenne representing themselves though neither was a lawyer, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Wyoming law that defines marriage as a contract between a man and a woman after the Laramie County Clerk's Office refused to issue them a marriage license. On September 10, the couple dropped their suit, saying that "circumstances had changed."
On March 5, 2014, four same-sex couples and Wyoming Equality filed a lawsuit in state court, Courage v. Wyoming, challenging Wyoming's statutory ban on same-sex marriage and the recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.
In September 2011, the University of Wyoming first offered limited domestic partnership benefits to its employees. The $600 per month voucher will come from the University's external funds; officials emphasized that no tax dollars would be used for the insurance benefit. According to the official University of Wyoming website, "The benefit provides an allowance to assist in paying for health insurance for partners and dependents. The allowance is equivalent in dollar amount to the state’s contributions to the Wyoming employees’ group insurance plan for spouses and dependents." University officials had worked on the benefit "for years", since the mid-2000s, approving it in 2009, but only funding the program for the 2011-2012 academic year when money became available. A University spokesperson said they offered the benefit because "the school needed to recognize domestic partners in order to attract top-flight faculty and administrators...."  To secure the benefit, employees must fill out an affidavit, in addition to the other paperwork, during the open enrollment period.
It was thought that very few other agencies would enroll their employees, but that has not proven to be the case. An employee at Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming, applied in January 2012 for similar benefits. College officials were looking into offering such benefits from its own pool of funds.
Colleges and universities may also establish a spousal hire to solve the two-body problem, which is a job search by a dual-career couple in academia. An institution in a small, rural state such as Wyoming may be under increased pressure to hire a spouse than in a large metropolitan area.
There are laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. On January 31, 2011, the state House rejected a bill banning such discrimination. Likewise, on January 31, 2013, the state Senate rejected a similar bill by a vote of 15 to 13.
Hate crimes legislation
Wyoming dose have a hate crimes law. In 1999, following the murder of Matthew Shepard near Laramie, Wyoming, such legislation was "hotly debated." Proponents of such legislation since then have preferred the term "bias crime."
A July 2013 Public Policy Polling survey found that 57% of Wyoming voters thought that same-sex marriage should be legal, while 32% thought it should be illegal and 11% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 64% of respondents supported legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 28% supporting same-sex marriage, 36% supporting civil unions, 32% opposing all legal recognition and 3% not sure.
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- William N. Eskridge, Dishonorable Passions: Sodomy Laws in America, 1861-2003 (NY: Penguin Group, 2008), 201n, available online, accessed April 10, 2011
- TITLE 6 - CRIMES AND OFFENSES
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