Wyoming moves to ban gay marriage

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A bill that would let Wyoming voters decide whether to amend the state constitution to deny state recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere has been introduced in the Wyoming House.

A similar bill has stalled in the Senate Education Committee.

Rep. Owen Petersen (R-Lyman) is the main sponsor of the House bill. He declined comment on it on Monday, saying he won’t discuss it until it hits the floor.

Focus on the Family Action, a Colorado Springs, Colo.-based evangelical group, has been lobbying in Wyoming in favor of passing the measure. The group has called some Wyoming voters to encourage them to lobby senators to support it.

Opponents of the bill, including the group Wyoming Equality, characterize the proposal as an attack on the gay community.

Existing Wyoming law states that only marriages between a man and a woman may be conducted in the state. However, the state currently is bound to recognize marriages performed in other states, some of which allow same-sex marriages.

Massachusetts and Connecticut are the only states that now allow gay marriage. Thirty other states have placed bans on gay marriage into their state constitutions.

California voters passed such a ban last fall despite strong opposition from that state’s gay and lesbian community.

Rep. Bob Brechtel (R-Casper), a co-sponsor of the Wyoming proposal, said he and other supporters are motivated by trying to preserve traditional marriage — and not by any antigay sentiment.

“We’re not trying to tell anybody how to live their lives,” Brechtel said. “If people want to have some kind of civil union, that’s entirely their business. This is not meant to discriminate against any human person.”

Brechtel added: “There is an outgrowth of Judeo-Christian principles and values that has traditionally made families strong. And as one example, we know for a fact that there are social implications in children living without a mommy or a daddy.”

Bob Spencer is a spokesperson for Wyoming Equality, a group that works on LGBT issues in the state. He said he believes the measure clearly is an attack on Wyoming’s gay community, despite supporters’ claims to the contrary.

“That’s the same thing that’s always said,” Spencer said. “And it is an antigay thing. Otherwise there wouldn’t be an opposition to it.”

Rep. Steve Harshman (R-Casper) said he’s co-sponsoring the measure because his constituents overwhelmingly support it. He said the bill is not an attack on the gay and lesbian community.

“We put restrictions on all kinds of things that some folks want to call social or moral issues,” he said. “We do that all the time. Societies have always done that.”

If the measure comes up in the House, there will likely be spirited debate.

Rep. Pete Jorgensen (D-Jackson) said Monday that he believes the issue should be left to the choice of the individuals involved. “It is a philosophical position on both sides of the argument, and has no place in a state statute,” he said.

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