Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ex-Equality State

The Wyoming Senate didn't have a lot of pressing bills. What to do? Of course, rush through the anti-Massachusetts marriage bill!

We were sort of waiting for the House follow-up, but there's no hurry on that side apparently. A bill originated in one chamber there gets moved to the other on passage. There it goes through committee and if approved must pass in the identical form in both to become law.

In damned good coverage by AP writer Ben Neary, the thinking of the senators is bare. That's particularly good, as they took an unrecorded voice vote to pass the bill.

The seemingly naive aged chief sponsor, Sen. Gerald Geis, claims the bill just reinforces the existing law defining marriage as one man/one woman. Actually it asserts that it voids out-of-state same-sex marriages. This is the only class of marriage that the state treats this way. If an out-of-state union would be incestuous or underage by Wyoming law, bring to Cheyenne; that's just fine.

Geis says he's just trying to keep on the good side of Bill Clinton's federal DOMA law. In reality, it is trying to turn comity on its head by going beyond refusing to recognize same-sex marriages and voiding them. Take Wyoming residence and poof, you're unmarried.

The irony of this happening in the self-nicknamed Equality State was not lost on everyone.

Another senator, Michael Von Flatern, said they'd have to get a new epithet. He added, "I can tell you that the signal that we're putting out is not good for the state. We depend a lot on tourism."

The coverage noted that Wyoming bases its moniker on being the first in the union to let women vote. This happened in 1869. However, the same year, the legislature outlawed interracial marriages.

Senator Mike Massie remarked that the anti-miscegenation law remained on the books for nearly a century, "adding that the reasons people gave at the time for banning mix-race marriages are similar to those presented now in favor of the ban on recognizing same-sex marriages: that it goes against their reading of the Bible."

Another Democratic senator who voted against the will was Kathryn Sessions. She said, "I feel badly about it. It's not over yet. I hope we don't send that out to represent the state of Wyoming. It's not in the spirit of what we're supposed to stand for."

No one is aware of any same-sex married couples in the state, much less any ready to challenge the existing state law. It remains to be seen whether this new bill, if it becomes law, could withstand challenges at the federal level.

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Boston Bud said...

Then maybe we should pass a law that does not recognize any marriage that takes place in the "Equality State". Let the people vote.

Anonymous said...

What about people married in other countries? Does a US state have the power to nullify marriages enacted by soverign nations?

massmarrier said...

I don't believe a state has the authority to void marriages from other states, let alone countries. On the other hand, the one area that the federal government stepped into the states' rights power over marriage was in polygamy, with the Latter Day Saints. So today, a legally polygamous family moving to the U.S. is faced with the first marriage being recognized, but no additional wives.

As far as I know, neither the nation nor states have previously claimed to be able to void external marriages. I bet this is reaching much too far.

Anonymous said...

Musgrave has put her "Marriage Amendment" on the back burner this session. Angie Paccione almost beat her in Colorado in '06, and now she's scared to push her pet cause.