Anti-gay definition of marriage bill passes 1st hurdle in Wyoming House
Jan 20, 2011 at 02:30 pm
Posted by Michelle Dynes on wyomingnews.com:
"Legislation to clarify Wyoming's definition of marriage split along party lines to pass out of a House committee 7-2 on Monday.
"Wyoming law already defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, but state law also requires the state to recognize marriages performed in other states. House Bill 74 would close that loophole, specifying that marriages of same-sex couples performed in other states or other countries wouldn't be considered valid in Wyoming.
"Supporters testified that the legislation would ensure that policy decisions aren't made in court if a homosexual couple decides to challenge Wyoming's law. Opponents said the approval of the legislation was a disappointing tribute for Martin Luther King Jr. and Wyoming Equality Day.
"Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, and Rep. John Freeman, D-Green River, of the House Education Committee voted against the bill while 'aye' votes included those of Co-chairman Rep. Matt Teeters, R-Lingle, Rep. Bob Brechtl, R-Casper, Rep. Donald Burkhart, R-Rawlins, Rep. Kendell Kroeker, R-Evansville, Rep. Sam Krone, R-Cody, Rep. Carl "Bunky" Loucks, R-Casper, and Rep. Michael Madden, R-Buffalo.
"Austin Nimocks, senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, testified that marriage is often viewed as a contract with the state and two consenting adults. And while Wyoming must recognize marriages from other states, it must also provide divorces when legally-recognized couples decide to split, he added.
"Listeners packed into Room 302 of the Capitol, crowding the room with additional chairs and spilling into the hallway as lawmakers heard more than two hours of testimony for and against the legislation.
"The proposal encroaches on the fundamental right of marriage, said Torrington resident Butch Nollsch with the group Wyoming Watchdogs.
"'Tradition alone cannot be used as a justification,' he added. 'Does the state have the constitutional authority to define marriage at all?'
"He also criticized conservative lawmakers for arguing against gun control but in favor of 'marriage control.' Nollsch asked if it meant that marriage is more dangerous than guns, saying that HB 74 doesn't benefit the state in any way.
"Instead, the legislation would embolden bullies, said Joe Corrigan, chairman Wyoming Equality, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in Wyoming.
"'I don't know why you'd want to discourage loving relationships,' he added.
"Cheyenne resident Mary Boud said the bill's opponents implied that supporters are prejudiced. She added that it doesn't signify animosity toward homosexuals and the goal is to strengthen the relationship that supports a family and brings children into the world."
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