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Wyoming Update: House committee passed anti-gay legislation on 'Equality Day'

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Yesterday, we reported that the House Education Committee in Wyoming ("The Equality State") was going to vote on an anti-gay bill on Equality Day (as its known in Wyoming.)

Well, the House Education Committee did in fact vote to pass that bill:

Legislation to clarify Wyoming's definition of marriage split along party lines to pass out of a House committee 7-2 on Monday.

Wyoming law already defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, but state law also requires the state to recognize marriages performed in other states. House Bill 74 would close that loophole, specifying that same-sex marriages performed in other states or other countries wouldn't be considered valid in Wyoming.
We're fortunate to have a first-hand report from AMERICAblog reader Kristian, who attended the hearing:
As expected the Wyoming House Committee voted along party lines - 7 Republicans in Favor and the 2 Democrats Opposed.

The room in the Capitol was packed, standing room only in fact. From my informal survey it seemed that two thirds of the people in attendance were opposed to House bill 74. Sadly the moving testimony that was given from a variety of Wyoming citizens - a psychologist, a marriage counselor, a romance novelist, several well spoken students, a parent, a civil libertarian, a Unitarian pastor and many others, was not enough to move the hearts of those who later voted to move the bill to the floor of the Wyoming House. It still has several steps to move through in the House and word in the hallways of the Capitol suggests that it might not get any further than the first House step, which is the Committee of the Whole. Hopefully this is true.

Rep. Cathy Connolly (D) is to be thanked for her moving personal testimony to her fellow committee members about her life as an out lesbian, a mother and a citizen of the state. She also spoke of the economic impact on Wyoming by not being able to recruit the best and brightest from around the country if it is branded an intolerant state as well as the impact on tourism - if this bill passes a gay couple married in any state that holds it legal will find that the second they cross the Wyoming border they are stripped of their married rights and privileges (God help them that no accident occur while driving I-80 across the state or visiting the Tetons, Yellowstone or any other part of this beautiful state). Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R) is also to be thanked for his testimony and ongoing opposition to the bill and the others like it that have come up in the past four years.

It felt like the fact that it was the Equality State on Equality Day where the new Governor (Matt Mead) had spoken about all people being equal just hours before at an MLK Jr. rally was completely lost on these legislators as they moved forwards on an act of inequality.

They desperately needed to be reminded of what Dr. King said in 1967, "What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at the best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love."

What could be a more perfect representation of love than marriage?

Up next is a bill originating out of the Wyoming Senate that would amend the Wyoming constitution with bigotry and the limiting of marriage to between a man and a woman (the usual shtick). It looks right now that this bill, SJ0005, will come before the Wyoming Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday (tomorrow) morning at 7am.

Rep. Connolly has also introduced an anti-discrimination bill, HB0142, that would provide protection against discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender in choosing a juror, in accommodation, in employment, in child care, etc. Rep. Connolly has also introduced a Civil Unions bill, HB0150 and a Marriage Equality bill, HB0149. These bills need all the help they can get even though they have a bipartisan group of sponsors.

Wyoming, at times, can be a hard state to understand, good things have happened of the first to grant voting rights for women, the first woman governor, a live and let live attitude...but terrible things have happened here too...the most notorious was the of course the cruel and tragic death of a young gay college student at the hands of his vile anti-gay tormentors.

I do believe there is hope and that miracles can happen. I grew up in DC and Chicago but my family is from Wyoming and I live near them out here now, I know how people can write off places like Wyoming as not worth the struggle or coverage (too conservative, too backwards, etc) but I urge you to keep shining the light on this state and reminding people that even in one of the most conservative states the fight for equality under the law and our legal rights as citizens continues. You might be surprised at the amazing people and stories you find here.
Thanks, Kristian. It's good to know we've got people like you, the others who testified and Rep. Connolly out there fighting for equality. It matters for all of us.

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