Gay Marriage Ban with a Loophole
Same-sex couples cannot marry in the state of Wyoming. A Wyoming statute dictates that “Marriage is a civil contract between a male and a female person to which the consent of the parties capable of contracting is essential” but no constitutional amendment expressing the same has been passed. Wyoming is currently the only state that does not grant same-sex marriages but accepts those granted in other jurisdictions. An amendment may be on the way since it—a bill sponsored by Senator Curt Meier that would specifically reject gay marriages–passed the Senate in 2011 and will appear on the 2012 election ballot. Another bill to invalidate marriages performed out of state is also in motion.
However, another statute goes on to say that “All marriage contracts which are valid by the laws of the country in which contracted are valid in this state” which some have interpreted as acceptance of marriages from outside jurisdictions. Unfortunately, this is not the case because the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) relieves the state government from obligation to recognize same-sex marriages granted elsewhere.
No laws are in place to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation and as a first in the state, the University of Wyoming offered some domestic partnership benefits to employees.
The Same-Sex Divorce Issue
Quite recently (2011), the Supreme Court of Wyoming granted divorce to two women who had married in Canada. The ruling was case-specific and made a point of expressing that “nothing in this opinion should be taken as applying to the recognition of same-sex marriages legally solemnized in a foreign jurisdiction in any context other than divorce. The question of recognition of such same-sex marriages for any other reason, being not properly before us, is left for another day.” This ruling recognizes that state courts still have the power to grant same-sex divorce although not same-sex marriage.
There does not seem to be much public action regarding gay rights in Wyoming but it does have a history of being an “equality” state. It was the first in the union to grant women suffrage and also elected the first female governor. There is also the presence of Wyoming Equality.
- Can same-sex couples wed in Wyoming? No.
- Can same-sex couples enter into civil unions or domestic partnerships? Current laws do not specify.
- Can same-sex marriages granted elsewhere be recognized? Technically yes but legislation is to change this is underway.