January 31, 2013
By Jacob Combs
The Wyoming House of Representatives last night defeated a bill that would have allowed same-sex couples in the state to enter into domestic partnerships providing most of the legal rights and responsibilities that the state offers married couples, the AP reported. The final House vote, with 24 representatives supporting the bill and 35 opposing it, marked the first time that any gay rights legislation received a full floor debate in Wyoming.
This Monday, the Wyoming House Corporations Committee voted 7-2 to advance the domestic partnership bill to a floor vote, although it narrowly rejected by a 5-4 margin another bill that would have legalized marriage equality in the state. The Corporations Committee has only one Democratic member, James Byrd, so both bills garnered significant Republican support in those initial votes. In addition, there are only a handful of Democrats in the full House, meaning many of the 24 legislators who voted in favor of the bill were Republican.
Although the failure of the two bills is frustrating for advocates in the state, the fact that so many Republican legislators were willing to vote in favor of them is a very promising sign. LGBT rights supporters have one more bill to hope for, a non-discrimination measure that was approved yesterday on a 4-1 vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee. One Republican voted against it, while one Democrat and three Republicans voted in favor.
Rep. Lynn Hutchings, a Republican from Cheyenne, testified against the non-discrimination bill, S.F. No. 131, saying that as a black woman, she wants gays and lesbians to “please stop carpet-bagging on our civil rights movement.”
It’s worth noting that Wyoming’s state nickname is ‘The Equality State’ and the state motto is ‘Equal Rights.’ Not surprisingly, those words clearly don’t mean the same thing to everybody.