Wednesday, February 23, 2011

HB74 moves to Conference Committee

Last week the Senate narrowly approved HB 74 – Validity of marriage. The bill included an amendment intended to allow access to Wyoming courts by those in domestic partnerships or civil unions. Yesterday the House defeated the amended bill 50 – 7 and now the bill will go to a conference committee composed of 3 members of each house in an attempt to work out a compromise.

Despite the protestations of the bill’s supporters that they are not “targeting” gay and lesbian citizens, a howl went up from these groups in opposition to the amendment made in the Senate. It is clear from Richard Wall’s most recent op-ed in the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle that the purpose of this bill and others like it is to stop all attempts at equal or fair treatment lesbian and gay citizens.

Richard Wall states that “homosexual activist” use civil unions as a stepping stone to gay marriage, and apparently that alone is a good enough reason to deny a minority group access to the legal system.

Mr. Wall’s legal arguments regarding courts declining jurisdiction on procedural or jurisdictional rules provide no rationale to deny access to courts. Jurisdictional and procedural provisions apply to all individuals equally; this statue singles out a particular group of individuals and denies them legal rights.

Supporters of this bill have insisted that the bill is necessary in order to close a “loophole” in the Wyoming law that could allow recognition of same sex unions or marriages in other states. The loophole is an accepted legal principal that provides that we recognize other states legal process as they recognize ours. This tradition allows for the smooth working of our legal system across the nation. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if we did not accept automobile registration, driver’s licenses, various certificates such as birth and death certificates, marriage and divorce decrees from other states. Yet the current bill would make it clear that the laws of other states are unacceptable in Wyoming, and the people protected by those laws are outside the protection of the law in our state. Lesbian and gay couples are being targeted with this bill and our legislature is being asked to put this discrimination into statute. This bill is clearly unconstitutional, and it is also clearly wrong.