Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Voiding Bay State Marriages

If fate or incident inspires you and your spouse to move your same-sex marriage from Massachusetts, what sounds better than the Equality State? Think again.

Well, Wyoming was the first state to enact women's suffrage (1869). Cynics say they did that to help ensure their statehood and since that they haven't had much to brag about in terms of equality. In fairness (in both senses), they have only smatterings of non-whites, about 3% Native American and 1% African American. Its demographics look like a Western New Hampshire with even fewer Latinos (about 6%). Their idea of equality is occasionally electing female legislators.

Flash forward to the new, devolved Wyoming, the one that may void Massachusetts marriages. Putting the lie to their epithet, they are considering a bill (SF0013) that reads:
AN ACT relating to domestic relations; creating an exception to the provision that all marriages validly contracted outside of this state are valid in Wyoming; providing that marriages between persons of the same sex are void; and providing for an effective date.

Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Wyoming: Section 1. W.S. 20-1-111 and 20-2-101(a) by creating
a new paragraph (iv) are amended to read:

12 20-1-111. Foreign marriages. All marriage contracts which are valid by the laws of the state or country in which contracted are valid in this state, except marriages when the persons are of the same sex.

20-2-101. Void and voidable marriages defined; annulments.

(a) Marriages contracted in Wyoming are void without any decree of divorce: (iv) When the persons are of the same sex.

Section 2. This act is effective July 1, 2007.
Lest you think you are misreading, yes, this mean-spirited, anti-equality, overkill bill would go far beyond not recognizing legal same-sex marriages. It would void them without any other legal action, such as divorce or annulment.

Consider now:
  • Who would introduce such an unreasonable, unfair and almost certainly unconstitutional bill?
  • How did Wyoming get to this legal place?
  • What affect might its passage have there and elsewhere?
Chief buffoon on this bill is state Sen. Gerald Geis, with Rep. Owen Petersen in a supporting role. The former is in the giggle-producing, decades old head shot here. Feel free to guess their party affiliation.

The 73-year-old Geis is a married Roman Catholic concerned mostly with agricultural issues. He's been in the legislature since the house in 1975 and senate in 1993. The 64-year-old Peterson is a married Mormon who belongs to everything from the VFW to the state bar to the NRA to AARP.

The AP ran a piece on the bill, which should be available in numerous places if it disappears from here.

Geis claims to be only following orders:
"A group of people in Worland asked me to sponsor it," Geis said. "They didn't want people from other states that say (homosexual couples) can be married to come in and say they get the same status in Wyoming. ... I'm just representing my district."
Petersen offered some rambling comments about marriage being in trouble. "...I do believe that it's something we should go forward with and support for the betterment of our society." So, I don't think he knows why he's doing it.

Emotionally, Wyoming has the burden of being the state that had the brutal torture and murder of student Matthew Shepard in 1998.

Legally, the bill is of dubious value. Wyoming does not have a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, but its law is very plain -- Marriage is a civil contract between a male and a female person to which the consent of the parties capable of contracting is essential.

In the majority of states, legislators are either truly paranoid about invading hordes of Massachusetts married homosexuals or simply pandering to the basest emotions of the lowest common denominator. In many cases, this led to piling amendment upon law to put this restriction into their constitutions.
It may be fun in 10 or 20 years to see these states repeal these amendments and curse the shortsighted fools who sullied their documents of freedom with overt discrimination. Meanwhile, there are lives to live, and there is the crucial matter of full faith and credit, which Presidents Bill Clinton and George (the Lesser) Bush have tromped on over preventing marriage equality and legal equity.

Here is where Geis and his ilk have set up a volatile legal situation. If this odious bill passes, it would well set up the court cases that they want to avoid. If they intend to prevent one or more legally married Massachusetts same-sex couples moving to Cheyenne and suing for recognition of their marriage, voiding another state's legal marriage is surely the worst way to do that.

They are leaping back and forth over the short fences that separate states rights from federalism, the established dividers that judges through the Supreme Court take far more seriously than they do local paranoia.

Assume that they pass this bill and that Massachusetts marrieds win recognition from the Wyoming or federal courts. This would void the voiding law, opening similar action elsewhere.

This is bound to happen eventually. How nice if the Equality State gets it started so quickly and so clearly.

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Peter Porcupine said...

Mariage laws have always belonged to the state - age of consent, waiting periods, consanguity, medical tests, etc., have all varied from state to state. I have no problem with states regulating their own marriage laws.

Where THIS is wrong is voiding a valid marriage from another state, which has NOT been done before. A Reno divorce and a Maryland marriage were always recognized in New York! (NY had very restrictive marriage laws).

A bad precedent legally.

massmarrier said...

Just so, PP, and the legislators behind it think they have properly vetted it legally. Hardy har.

Instead, if it passes, they will have virtually guaranteed law suits and eventual loss.

Anonymous said...

I mean, if you're BORN in Wyoming, you might not know any better, and decide to stay there.

Especially if you've never been anywhere else.

But why the fuck would anyone who has been to Massachusetts want to move to Wyoming, anyway?

massmarrier said...

Well, anonymous, you could wear your luxury sheepskin coat and drive your new SUV off-road for a change. There's Yellowstone and big fish and moose and bears. You could teach at Casper College and get a T-bird T-shirt. You could ride a horse into town. You could earn a third to a half of what you would in the Bay State if you could find a comparable job. Oh, oh, and it has the lowest population in the country. Maybe the answer is if you like mountains, don't like people, and do like intrusive, repressive government.