Anti-gay marriage bills advance in Wyoming Legislature

2011-01-21T11:52:00Z 2011-01-27T12:37:28Z Anti-gay marriage bills advance in Wyoming LegislatureJEREMY PELZER Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
January 21, 2011 11:52 am  • 

CHEYENNE — Legislation to prohibit recognition of same-sex marriages from outside Wyoming advanced further in the state House of Representatives on Friday.

A Senate committee also approved a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in the state, though not before amending it to potentially allow for civil unions.

By a voice vote, state representatives passed House Bill 74 on second reading; the bill must now pass a final vote next week before heading to the Senate, which appears supportive of the proposal.

The bill passed Thursday on first reading with support from 34 of 60 House members. Opponents of the bill were working Friday to get five lawmakers who initially voted for the legislation to switch their votes.

The Wyoming House has voted down similar legislation twice in recent years. But with many past opponents retiring or voted out of office in November, supporters have said they're optimistic they have the votes to pass the bill this year.

State Rep. Owen Petersen, R-Mountain View, the bill's sponsor, said the legislation is needed to resolve a conflict in Wyoming law, which defines marriage as a contract "between a male and a female person" but also recognizes any valid marriage performed outside the state. Other supporters have said the bill will help to hold back government intrusion into Wyoming traditions and culture.

Opponents said the bill is unnecessary, violates the rights of gays and lesbians to marry, and would create havoc for legally married out-of-state gay couples traveling in Wyoming.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the State Capitol, Senate Judiciary Committee members passed a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage by a 3-2 vote on Friday.

Senate Joint Resolution 5 now heads to the full Senate for consideration. But even if the legislation passes the Senate, Thursday's vote on HB74 indicates there might not be the two-thirds support needed for the resolution to pass the House.

Before passing SJR5, committee members amended it to specify that civil unions and other marriage-like contracts wouldn't be covered under the proposed ban.

Contact Jeremy Pelzer at jeremy.pelzer@trib.com or 307-632-1244.

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