Same-sex marriage in Wyoming

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Same-sex marriage has been legally recognized in the U.S. state of Wyoming since October 21, 2014. Wyoming had previously prohibited state recognition of same-sex marriages by statute since 1977 and had enacted a more explicit ban in 2003. An attempt to enact legislation recognizing domestic partnerships as an alternative to marriage for same-sex couples failed in 2013.

On October 17, 2014, a federal court found the state's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Its ruling took effect on October 21 when state officials notified the court that they would not appeal the decision.

Statutory ban[edit]

In 1977, the Wyoming State Legislature passed a ban on same-sex marriage.[1] In 2003, the Wyoming State Legislature passed another ban on same-sex marriage.[2] The statutes read: "marriage is a civil contract between a male and a female person".[3]

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 it does not qualify that statement. (Wyo. Stat. Ann. §20-1-111)[4] Lawsuits have cited these provisions when challenging the state's denial of recognition to same-sex marriages established in other jurisdictions.[5][6][7]

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.[8] 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.[9]

On January 24, 2011, the House passed a bill that would have prohibited the state from recognizing same-sex marriages performed outside the state.[10] On February 18, it was passed by the Senate,[11] but after further legislative action it failed.[12]

Attempts to amend Constitution[edit]

On January 27, 2011, the Senate approved, by two-thirds majority, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.[13] The proposal died in the House.[14]

Attempts to recognize same-sex unions[edit]

On January 28, 2011, the House Judiciary Committee voted down a bill legalizing civil unions.[15]

On January 14, 2013, legislators filed a bill establishing same-sex marriage in Wyoming by defining marriage as a civil contract between "two natural persons." On January 28, a House committee defeated the marriage bill 5-4.[16] The House considered the bill and defeated it on February 13, 2013 by a vote of 17-41.[17]


Wyoming Governor Matt Mead said that despite action by the U.S. Supreme Court on October 6, 2014, which left standing as binding precedent on courts in Wyoming rulings of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals that found bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, the Attorney General "will continue to defend Wyoming's constitution defining marriage between a man and a woman", mistakenly referring to the State Constitution, which does not define marriage. Clerks in three counties said they had received inquiries about issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but were waiting for a change in state law or an order from a judge.[18]

Federal lawsuits[edit]

Guzzo v. Mead[edit]

On October 7, 2014, after the U.S. Supreme Court declined appeals in two cases from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, allowing decisions invalidating state bans on same-sex marriage to become binding precedent on courts in Wyoming, four same-sex couples and Wyoming Equality filed a lawsuit in federal court, Guzzo v. Mead, asking for an immediate order to end the state's denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples. Three of the couples had earlier initiated a lawsuit in state court and the fourth had just been denied a marriage license. They are represented by private attorneys and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.[19] U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl ruled for the plaintiffs on October 17 and stayed enforcement of his ruling until 5 pm MDT on October 23 or until the defendants have informed the court that they will not appeal to the Tenth Circuit, whichever is first.[20] Governor Matt Mead's office released a statement that the state will decline to appeal the ruling[21] and notified the court on October 21 of that decision,[22] at which point the judge lifted his stay and same-sex couples began obtaining marriage licenses. Wyoming is also required to recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions.[23]

State lawsuits[edit]

Christiansen v. Christiansen[edit]

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.[24] 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."[25][26]

Courage v. Wyoming[edit]

On March 5, 2014, four same-sex couples and Wyoming Equality filed a lawsuit, Courage v. Wyoming, in the First Judicial District, challenging Wyoming's statutory ban on same-sex marriage and the recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.[27] The plaintiffs were couples that married in Canada and Iowa, as well as two couples who were denied marriages licenses by the Laramie County Clerk.[3]

After Obergefell v. Hodges[edit]

On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled, in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry in all 50 states.

On February 14, 2018, two Republican representatives introduced to the House the Marriage and Constitution Restoration Act. The bill sought to reenact the state's same-sex marriage ban, and ban the state's political subdivisions from "granting, endorsing, respecting or recognizing any marriage not between a man and woman". The bill would have thus been in violation of Obergefell v. Hodges and the United States Constitution. Merely two days after its introduction to the House, the bill died as House lawmakers refused to consider it.[28][29]

Marriage statistics[edit]

On October 21, 2015, exactly 12 months after the federal court's ruling in Guzzo v. Mead which struck down Wyoming's ban on same-sex marriage, the Wyoming Department of Health's office of Vital Statistics Services estimated that 201 marriage licenses had been issued to same-sex couples in the state. This constituted about 5% of the 3,850 total marriage licenses issued in Wyoming in that time.[30]

Public opinion[edit]

A July 2013 Public Policy Polling survey found that 57% of Wyoming voters thought that same-sex marriage should be illegal, while 32% thought it should be legal 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.[31]

A University of Wyoming survey, conducted between October 13 and to October 28, 2014, found that 53% of respondents agreed that "homosexual couples should be allowed to get married", while 39% disagreed and 8% declined to answer.[32]

2015 and 2016 polls found that 48% and 49% of Wyoming residents supported same-sex marriage, respectively.[33][34]

In 2017, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that 62% of Wyomingites supported same-sex marriage, while 30% were opposed and 8% were undecided.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Overview of Gay Marriage". Archived from the original on April 16, 2013. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  2. ^ States Have Legal Same-Sex Marriage
  3. ^ a b National Center for Lesbian Rights: Complaint, Courage v. Wyoming, March 5, 2014, accessed September 29, 2014
  4. ^ "Wyoming Statutes online". Archived from the original on March 16, 2014. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  5. ^ "Cheyenne gay couple challenges Wyo. marriage law | KULR-8 News, Sports, Weather | - Billings, MontanaLocal Coupons | Wyoming State News". August 25, 2010. Archived from the original on March 8, 2012. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
  6. ^ "Wyoming to consider marriage amendment". January 22, 2009. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
  7. ^ Associated Press (January 13, 2009). "Wyoming to consider marriage amendment". Retrieved December 5, 2012.
  8. ^ "Panel kills gay marriage bill". Caspar Star Tribune. February 22, 2007. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  9. ^ Miller, Jared (February 7, 2009). "Gay marriage ban falls in House". Caspar Star Tribune. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  10. ^ Pelzer, Jeremy (January 24, 2011). "House passes anti-gay marriage bill". Caspar Star Tribune. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  11. ^ Pelzer, Jeremy (February 18, 2011). "Wyoming Senate passes anti-gay marriage bill". Caspar Star Tribune. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  12. ^ Lecalir, Aaron (March 3, 2011). "Anti-gay marriage bill defeated in Senate". Laramie Boomerang. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  13. ^ Fankhauser, Chris (January 27, 2011). "House Now Gets Chance At Gay Marriage Bill". KCSR. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  14. ^ Same-sex marriage constitutional amendment dies in Wyoming House after missing deadline[dead link][dead link]
  15. ^ Pelzer, Jeremy (January 28, 2011). "Wyoming House committee votes down civil unions bill". Caspar Star Tribune. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  16. ^ Celock, John (January 29, 2013). "Wyoming Legislative Committee Rejects Gay Marriage, Passes Domestic Partnerships". Huffington Post. Retrieved January 29, 2013.
  17. ^ Hancock, Laura (February 13, 2014). "Wyoming House votes down pro-gay marriage legislation". Casper Star-Tribune. Retrieved February 14, 2014.
  18. ^ Hancock, Laura (October 6, 2014). "Mead says Supreme Court move has no impact on Wyoming's gay marriage case". Casper Star Tribune. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  19. ^ "NCLR and Wyoming Equality File Federal Lawsuit Seeking Immediate Compliance With Appeals Court Ruling". National Center for Lesbian Rights. October 7, 2014. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  20. ^ "Order". U.S. District Court for Wyoming. Retrieved October 17, 2014.
  21. ^ "Mead says state will not appeal today's same-sex marriage ruling". Archived from the original on October 23, 2014. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  22. ^ Moen, Bob (October 21, 2014). "Wyoming Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage". ABC news. Associated Press. Retrieved October 21, 2014.
  23. ^ "Wyoming, scene of notorious 1998 hate crime, accepts gay marriage". The Guardian. Associated Press. October 21, 2014. Retrieved October 22, 2014.
  24. ^ Pelzer, Jeremy (January 14, 2011). "Same-sex divorce stirs debate". Billings Gazette. Retrieved January 16, 2013.
  25. ^ Barron, Joan (June 7, 2011). "Wyoming Supreme Court reverses same-sex divorce ruling". Caspar Star Tribune. Retrieved January 16, 2013.
  26. ^ Jones, Ashby (June 7, 2011). "Wyoming High Court Grants Divorce to Same-Sex Couple". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 16, 2013.
  27. ^ "Lawsuit filed challenging Wyoming's ban on same-sex marriage". LGBTQ Nation. March 5, 2014.
  28. ^ Wyoming Lawmakers: Same-Sex Marriage Is an Unconstitutional Establishment of Religion
  29. ^ WY HB0167 | 2018 | Budget Session
  30. ^ James Chilton (October 22, 2015). "First anniversary of legal gay marriage in Wyoming". Wyoming News.
  31. ^ "Bipartisan Background Check Support Even in Wyoming" (PDF). Public Policy Polling. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  32. ^ Hancock, Laura (November 23, 2014). "Poll: More than half of Wyomingites support same-sex marriage". Casper Star-Tribune. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  33. ^ The American Values Atlas: Wyoming, 2015
  34. ^ The American Values Atlas: Wyoming, 2016
  35. ^ Public opinion on same-sex marriage by state: Wyoming

External links[edit]