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State of Wyoming
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Current Status


HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

  • Wyoming has prohibited same-sex marriage by statute since 1977 and it enacted a more explicit ban by statute in 2003.
  • There are no WY laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The state House rejected a bill banning such discrimination in 2011. In 2013, the state Senate rejected a similar bill.
  • In 2013, legislators filed a bill creating domestic partnerships to allow same-sex couples to "obtain the rights, responsibilities, protections and legal benefits provided in Wyoming for immediate family members." Governor Matt Mead said he favored domestic partnerships. The legislation was voted down by the House.
  • Laramie, Wyoming is where 21-year-old Matthew Shepard was beaten, tortured and brutally murdered on 12 October 1998. Prior to his murder, WY had no hate crimes law. In 1999, following Shepard's murder, hate crimes legislation was "hotly debated." Wyoming now has a hate crimes law.
  • NOTE: Shepard's murder brought national and international attention to hate crime legislation at the state and federal levels. In October 2009, the United States Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (aka the "Matthew Shepard Act" or "Shepard/Byrd Act"), and on 28 October 2009, President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law.
  • In 2009, Representative Cathy Connolly, became the first openly gay WY state legislator.
  • 6 October 2014, SCOTUS declined to take any of the 7 marriage equality cases from 5 states on appeal, including Utah's Kitchen. See page 39 of the order. Therefore, the 10th Circuit's June 25th ruling in Kitchen stood as valid and binding precedent was set for all other states in the 10th Circuit, including Wyoming. Marriage equality was legalized at the state level on 21 October 2014. See Guzzo v. Mead under LAWSUITS-RESOLVED below.

Legislation - Pending

Senate File 115

Author/Sponsor: Senate President Phil Nicholas, House Speaker Kermit Brown, Senate Judiciary Chairman Leland Christensen, House Minerals and Economic Development Chairman Tom Lockhart, Senate Minerals and Economic Development Chairman Michael Von Flatern, House Travel Chairman Ruth Ann Petroff, House Revenue Chairman Mike Madden, House Corporations Chairman Dan Zwonitzer, Senate Minority Floor Leader Chris Rothfuss, Representative Cathy Connolly, Senator Bruce Burns and Senator Stephan Pappas
Date Introduced: 22 January 2015

Description:

  • Senate File 115 would add sexual orientation and gender identity to Wyoming’s current non-discrimination law. Existing law, under the “Wyoming Fair Employment Practices of 1965,” includes protections for qualified workers preventing discrimination based on someone being disabled, or their age, sex, race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry or pregnancy.
  • 10 February 2015, the bill passed the Senate by a landslide! Referred to the House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee. Wyoming Senate Passes LGBT Anti-Discrimination Bill - By Dominic Holden, BuzzFeed News. 
  • 20 February 2015, the bill was passed by the House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee. Lawmaker kicked out of meeting as Wyoming committee clears LGBT anti-discrimination bill - By Laura Hancock, Caspar Star-Tribune
  • 24 February 2015, Senate File 115 failed, with 33 opposing it, 26 supporting it and one lawmaker excused. LGBT anti-discrimination bill fails in Wyoming House - By Laura Hancock, Star-Tribune
HB 0083 - Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Author/Sponsor: Reps. Winters and Steinmetz, and Sen. Dockstader
Date Introduced: January 2015

Description:

  • Nowhere in this piece of so-called "religious freedom" legislation is it mentioned when religious freedom was taken away necessitating that it be restored. Just sayin'...
  • The bill was amended on the floor to take out some of the language about the state paying legal fees.
  • 29 January 2015, the bill passed the first of three readings in the Wyoming House. 
  • 2 February 2015, the WY House passed the amended version of this bill. Amended religious freedom bill passes Wyoming House - By Laura Hancock, Star-Tribune

Legislation - Enacted

None.

Lawsuits - Pending

Guzzo v. Mead 

Case #: 2:14-cv-00200
Court Level: Federal District Court
Date Filed: 7 October 2014
Date of Appeal:
Description:

  • 7 October 2014, NCLR filed a lawsuit on behalf of 4 same-sex couples and Equality Wyoming challenging the state ban on marriage equality.
  • 8 October 2014, the plaintiffs filed a Motion and Brief for Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order.
  • 9 October 2014, Judge Scott W Skavdahl scheduled a hearing on the plaintiffs motion for 16 October 2014, 10:00 AM MT, at the Ewing T. Kerr Federal Building, Courtroom 2, 111 South Wolcott St. Casper, WY 82601-2534.
  • 13 October 2014, Governor Meade filed a motion to quash the subpoena to appear and testify at the October 16th hearing.
  • 16 October 2014, a hearing took place and Judge Skavdahl promised to rule by 5:00pm on Monday, 20 October 2014. 
  • 16 October 2014, during a Wyoming PBS debate in Riverton, Republican Gov. Matt Mead said the state shouldn't appeal the same-sex marriage ruling due from U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl. 
  • 17 October 2014, a Preliminary Injunction was granted, and a temporary stay is in place until 5:00pm on 23 October 2014, OR until all defendants have filed notice that they do not intend to appeal the injunction to the 10th Circuit, whichever comes first.
  • 17 October 2014, the Laramie County Clerk filed a Notice that she won't appeal.
  • 17 October 2014, Gov. Matt Mead announced Friday evening that the state will not appeal. “This result is contrary to my personal beliefs and those of many others. As in all matters, I respect the role of the courts and the ruling of the Court. … While this is not the result I and others would have hoped, I recognize people have different points of view and I hope all citizens agree, we are bound by the law,” said Mead in a statement. The statement also says that the attorney general “will file notice with the court that the State will not appeal” the ruling.
  • 20 October 2014, Wyoming Attorney General Michael issued a Press Release on the decision not to appeal.
  • 21 October 2014, notice filed that the state defendants will not appeal the preliminary injunction. It's official! Wyoming has marriage equality! 
  • 21 October 2014, immediately followed by Judge Skavdahl's Order lifting the temporary stay.
  • 7 November 2014, the defendants filed their Answer to Complaint.
  • 10 November 2014, the defendants filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings.
  • 17 November 2014, the plaintiffs filed their Response to Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings.
  • 24 November 2014, the plaintiffs filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, asking for permanent injunction and final judgment.
  • 8 December 2014, the state defendants filed their Response to the plaintiffs' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings.
  • 12 December 2014, the plaintiffs filed their Reply in support of the motion for judgment on the pleadings.
  • 29 January 2015, Judge Skavdahl issued his judgment and a permanent injunction in the case. (The prior ruling in this case was a preliminary injunction. Couples have been marrying in Wyoming since 21 October 2014.)
  • 26 February 2015, the plaintiffs' attorneys filed a motion, and memo in support of the motion, for $92,728.12 in fees and $5,125.97 in costs. Included was the bill of costs.
  • 12 March 2015, the State defendants filed their Opposition to the plaintiffs' motion for attorney fees and costs.
  •  20 March 2015, Laramie County Clerk Debra Lathrop opposed the state defendants' claim that attorneys' fees and costs should be split evenly between the state and county defendants, noting: "The Plaintiffs have properly chosen not to seek an award of fees against the Defendant Clerk based on her cooperation. Practically no fees or costs would have been required in a separate lawsuit against the Defendant Clerk alone. And, the Clerk vigorously attempted to ameliorate the effects of the unconstitutional statute, beginning in state Court months before this action was commenced."
    The clerk's reply to the state brief on attorney fees, linked below, concludes, "The Court should reject the State’s arguments for assigning or apportioning any part of the fees and costs to the Defendant Clerk."
  • 9 April 2015, Plaintiffs receive an attorney fee award of more than $61K, including $58,967.83 charged to the state and $2,259.84 charged to Laramie County.
  • 10 April 2015, the state filed its Opposition to the plaintiffs' amended bill of costs.
Cora Courage, et al. v. Wyoming, et al.

Case #: Docket #182 Case #262
Court Level: State Trial Court
Date Filed: 5 March 2014
Date of Appeal:

Description:

  • 5 March 2014, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Wyoming Equality filed a state lawsuit seeking marriage equality for 4 couples and challenging the 1997 WY law that bans marriage equality in WY. The plaintiffs say that by not being allowed to marry, they are denied basic rights and privileges afforded to straight couples.
  • 1 July 2014, the plaintiffs filed a Motion For Summary Judgment. 
  • 29 July 2014, Laramie County District Court Judge Thomas Campbell declined the plaintiff's request for summary judgment on the WY ban on marriage equality and denied state's request to suspend this lawsuit. Judge Campbell said he will consider any additional facts in the case and in November 2014 he will either rule on the law or allow the case to go ahead. 

Lawsuits - Resolved

Paula Christiansen v. Victoria Lee Christiansen

Case #: S-10-0252
Date Filed: February 2010
Ruling Date: 6 June 2011

Description:

  • 6 June 2011, the WY Supreme Court upheld the 2010 WY divorce of two Niobrara County women who legally married in Canada in 2008, because marriages legal in other countries are legal in WY, and added that whether to recognize such marriages for reasons other than divorce would be decided in some future case.

Ballot Initiatives - Pending

None.

Ballot Initiatives - Passed

None.

Polls

  • 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. Poll Details