Do Civil Unions Have a Chance in Wyoming?

Despite the advancement of a bill that would prohibit Wyoming from recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, and a state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman, could there be support for a civil union law?

The Star Tribune seems to think so: Protest_wyoming

Many legislators who voted earlier this week in favor of House Bill 74, which prohibits recognition of same-sex marriages from out of state, have said they see civil unions as an acceptable compromise. And while Gov. Matt Mead said he believes marriage should only be between a man and a woman, he wouldn’t rule out supporting civil union legislation should it reach his desk.

"I’m getting a stronger sense that civil unions will pass," said state Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, a supporter of gay marriage.

This week, the House Judiciary Committee will take up legislation to establish civil unions in Wyoming that would give same-sex couples in the state the same legal rights and benefits as married couples. The bill, House Bill 150, appears to have the votes to pass the Judiciary Committee.

State Rep. Cathy Connolly, the Laramie Democrat who’s sponsoring HB150, said she’s "very optimistic" the bill will pass the full House, as many gay marriage opponents have said they support civil unions.

On Friday, the Wyoming Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation by a 3-2 vote that would ban same-sex marriage in the state. However, before the vote they amended the legislation to potentially allow for civil unions.

Protests took place on Friday and Saturday, objecting to HB 74.


  1. mnrocko says

    This is what the agenda should have been at the start of this whole mess..equal rights..not marriage which brings religion into the fray but just civil unions…recognizing partners and their rights in society..screw religion.
    All of this would be over and we could focus on other matters..I don’t need or want a marriage, my partner and I would never get married unless it was a legal benefit to both of us..and then lets call it what it is…a civil union..
    I don’t need to be anything in the “eyes of the church” traditional marriage is so last century!

  2. Guy from DC says

    It’s really great if a state such as Wyoming might pass a civil unions law. But MNROCKO is completely wrong to suggest that this was a tactical error on the part of LGBT advocates. Think back to places like Hawaii, Vermont and DC where legal rights for gay and lesbian couples first introduced. At that time, the idea of ANY legal recognition of gay partnerships (including civil unions or domestic partnerships) was heresy. NOM and other marriage equality foes still fight these marriage substitutes whenever they are introduced. We NEVER would be at the point we are today, where full civil unions are an acceptable fallback position/compromise for some conservatives, if full marriage equality hadn’t been pursued. Furthermore, while a nice step, especially in a place like Wyoming, it’s only a hollow victory unless the Federal government is willing to extend tax and other benefits of marriage to civil unions in states where marriage equality isn’t possible.

  3. Strepsi says

    @MNROCKO – what you are missing is the following:
    1) Marriage does not equal religion. Straight people can go to city hall and get married with no religious component whatsoever.
    2) What has been proven in places like New Jersey, is that Civil Unions are NOT equal to marriage. There are so many benefits from the word “married” that do not transfer to civil unions, everything from Immigration visas to automatic kinship (hospital, estate, taxes, etc.) to workplace benefits. Places with Civil Unions always find that people with them are still not given equality to people who are “married”. Separate but Equal is not equal, but what’s worse, since you are concerned with wasting energy, is it takes MORE energy to try to make Civil Unions “equal to marriage in all but name”, than it does to just give us marriage equality.

  4. Guy from DC says

    @ MNROCKO, You’re wrong to link civil marriage equality with religion. Marriage equality foes do that, but no marriage equality bill has ever forced a particular religion to accept marriage for LGBT men and women. Churches in the U.S. always have been free to define marriage as they see fit (e.g., Catholics don’t recognize civil divorce, and Catholics have survived along side the existence of civil divorce throughout the U.S. for decades). LGBT men and women shouldn’t be advancing the harmful rhetoric of our critics.

  5. says

    @MNROCKO: I’ll echo what the others have said in response to your post. Marriage does not equal religion. All the benefits and protections of marriage are civil and come through the state, not the church. Many straight and gay married couples are not religious. The opposition brings religion “into the fray,” but their argument is false. Churches are free to sanction whichever marriages they please, but that has nothing to do with marriage protections, which have zero to do with religion.

    Furthermore, the idea that if only we’d asked for CUs to begin with, instead of full civil marriage equality, everyone would have them today is a myth. VT–the first state to have CUs–got them as a compromise resulting from a court ruling that said gay couples must receive equal rights. But, as CUs are not equal, VT now has marriage equality. CUs can be an important step forward on the road to equality, and the best political compromise that can be crafted in some states at this point in time, but we should demand nothing less than marriage, because there is no rational argument for excluding gay couples from this civil institution.

  6. BobN says


    Uh… when this fight began over four decades ago, there was only one institution in this society used to unite two people: marriage. Your argument also ignores that we did compromise, right away, and went for domestic partnerships. You might notice the other side didn’t jump on board with the compromise and accept them.

  7. Ben says

    It is lamentable that the Wyoming Legislature feels it necessary to ban same-sex marriage (given the state’s enduring infamy in American gay history). But one surprising – and heartening – development is that an overwhelmingly Republican legislature is willing to seriously consider civil unions, as might the governor. For a party so steeped in homophobia and political Christianity, this is a fairly major step forward.