Far From Quiet on the Western Front

Updates on the state of marriage equality in Wyoming & Montana

Wyomingers may call their turf “The Equality State,” but the motto now seems bitterly ironic to Western gays. The Wyoming House Judiciary Committee on Jan. 31 voted 5-4 against a measure that would have allowed civil unions in the state. On the same day, the committee rejected, without debate, a bill that would have allowed same-sex couples to marry.

Sprinkling salt in the wound, the Wyoming Senate had approved a backward-leaning bill the previous week that would revoke the state’s recognition of out-of-state gay and lesbian nuptials. The resolution, if passed by the House, will then ask voters to amend the state’s constitution to ban recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. With Wyoming’s track record as a leader in the equality category (in 1890, the state was the first to allow women to vote) fast deteriorating, we have to wonder, what the #*!$ is Wyoming thinking?

Meanwhile, Wyoming’s neighbor to the north, Montana, is looking at an ACLU lawsuit filed on behalf of six gay couples seeking to establish domestic partnerships for same-sex duos in the state. Donaldson and Guggenheim v. State of Montana was filed in July 2010 under the premise that Montana’s denial of relationship recognition to gay and lesbian couples and their families violates the state constitution’s protection and privacy clauses. District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock on Jan. 25 heard arguments in the first court hearing of what will likely become a lengthy legal battle that could reach the state Supreme Court. Those on the fair side of the law remain optimistic, however. Says plaintiff Mike Long about the case, “It’s a journey of 1,000 miles and we’re taking the first few steps.”

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