Marriage equality in Wyoming? Could it happen?
The Jackson Hole Daily reports on a pair of bills that have been introduced with bipartisan support, backed by Jackson Republican Rep. Keith Gingery (pictured) and Laramie Democratic Rep. Cathy Connolly:
House Bill 169 would change the state’s definition of marriage to say that marriage is a civil contract between “two natural persons.” Current law says that marriage is a contract between “a male and a female person.”
This piece of legislation would plug gay marriage into the state’s existing framework for marriage, Gingery said. It simply would open the rights afforded to heterosexual couples to gay couples as well.
“Legally speaking, I would prefer the gay marriage bill,” he said. “We already know how it works.”
House Bill 168, which Connolly filed Monday, would create a legal framework for domestic partnerships, allowing same-sex couples to “obtain the rights, responsibilities, protections and legal benefits provided in Wyoming for immediate family members.”
The law would consider a member of a domestic partnership to be a spouse under all state rules and laws.
Gingery is a Catholic and says the bills protect church policy.
The dual approach already has won the backing of Reps. Ruth Ann Petroff, R-Jackson, and Gingery. Both Teton County lawmakers said they would prefer to see gay marriage allowed in Wyoming but are willing to debate whether civil unions might be a better way to go.
“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.