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Bipartisan-supported marriage equality bill introduced in Wyoming legislature

Marriage equality

By Jacob Combs

That headline might come across as quite unexpected, but it’s true: there is support from both Republican and Democratic members of the Wyoming legislature for a bill that has been introduced in the new legislative session that could pave the way towards marriage equality or domestic partnerships, the Jackson Hole Daily reports.

House Bill 169, which was introduced by Democratic Representative Cathy Connolly yesterday, has won support from two Republicans: Rep. Keith Gingery and Rep. Ruth Ann Petroff, both of Teton County.  The two favor bringing marriage equality to the state but are open to pushing for domestic partnerships if that option ends up being more feasible.  From the Daily:

“It’s a basic human rights and fairness issue,” Petroff said Monday. “It’s a basic constitutional issue. There should just be no reason why same-sex couples shouldn’t have the same rights as everyone else.”

Gingery is the chairman of the judiciary committee, which will be the first to debate the bills. He said the issue poses a legal problem that state officials need to resolve.

“The population of gay couples in the state is increasing, and the law is not very clear about what rights they have,” he said.

Gingery, who is Catholic, says the question of whether to allow same-sex couples to get married in Wyoming isn’t a religious issue. If passed, the laws wouldn’t affect church policy, he said.

“We need to separate the religious issue from the civil function of society,” Gingery said.

Connolly’s House BIll 169 would modify Wyoming’s definition of marriage, changing it from a contract between “a male and a female person” to one between “two natural persons.”  She introduced similar legislation in 2009 and 2011, both of which were unsuccessful.

Gingery, however, believes that the sizable number of new legislators coming to Cheyenne this year could make a difference.  ”It’s hard for anyone to be against gay marriage when there’s a face to it and that face is a friend or relative,” he told the Daily.

The odds for Connolly’s bill succeeding are probably quite long: the Wyoming House has 52 Republican members and only eight Democrats, while the state Senate has 26 Republicans and four Democrats.  Still, it’s a positive sign that Republican representatives in the state are coming out in support of marriage equality, and that they are publicly expressing a preference for full equal marriage rights as opposed to the halfway protections of domestic partnerships or civil unions.

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