Wyoming Senate votes down bill preventing recognition of out-of-state gay marriages

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Legislation that banned the recognition of same-sex marriages outside of the state of Wyoming was narrowly voted down yesterday afternoon by a 16-14 vote.

Senators rejected an eleventh-hour compromise version of House Bill 74, following weeks of intense debate and argument over the legislation from both sides of the issue.

The legislation, its supporters claim, was necessary as it resolved a conflict in the law about whether Wyoming recognizes same-sex marriages from other states and countries, as said law defines marriage as a contract “between a male and a female person” but also recognizes any valid marriage performed outside the state.

But state Senators John Hines and Bill Landen, who cast the deciding votes against House Bill 74 on Wednesday, said they opposed it because it didn’t guarantee same-sex couples access to Wyoming courts to get a divorce or for other disputes. Last November, for instance, a local lesbian couple who had married in Canada were refused a divorce by a Wyoming District court judge.

Mr Hines and Mr Landen were two of a majority of senators last month who approved a version of HB74 that included such a guarantee for gay couples in out-of-state civil unions.

However, Wyoming House rejected the Senate’s version, and a compromise bill drafted by a legislative conference committee earlier this week stripped out any reference to court access or civil unions.

Both Mr Landen and Mr Hines also said they thought the compromise bill wouldn’t protect the institution of marriage beyond what already exists in Wyoming law, with Mr Hines reportedly saying it was a “‘feel-good bill’ that doesn’t do anything.”

However, gay rights supporters were delighted after the vote.

Jeran Artery of Wyoming Equality said: “I guess we don’t have to change the name quite yet away from the Equality State . . . to me, this says that we’re happy to have people come to Wyoming irregardless of their sexual orientation.”

Wednesday’s vote on HB74 is the latest in series of defeats for conservatives. Last week, state lawmakers threw out a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage as well as legislation requiring abortion doctors to offer an ultrasound to their patients.