Wyoming Becomes 32nd State to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage
LGBT marriage equality has arrived in the ‘Equality State.’ Wyoming on Tuesday became the 32nd US state to legalize same-sex marriage, joining six other mostly conservative states which have done so this month.
MSNBC reports Wyoming lawmakers filed legal notice Tuesday morning that they would decline to defend a recently overturned state law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
The state’s refusal to defend the law opened the door for county clerks throughout the deeply ‘red’ state to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Associated Press reports gay couples began applying for licenses within minutes.
“It’s surreal,” Casper resident Dirk Andrews, who along with his partner Travis Gray were one of the first three couples licensed in the state, told the AP. “We can’t believe it’s happening.”
“Neighbors and friends have been great,” added Andrews, a kindergarten teacher. “Co-workers, for the most part, if they don’t agree, they just don’t talk about it, but they haven’t been mean or negative about it.”
In Cheyenne, the state’s capital and largest city, Unitarian Universalist Reverend Audette Fulbright led Jennifer Mumaugh and A.J. McDaniel through their wedding vows just minutes after same-sex marriages became legal.
“I’ve been a ball of excitement all morning,” McDaniel told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. “It meant a lot to me to be the first, just because we have a 4-month-old at home she gave birth to that I have no legal rights to. This is one step closer to me having legal rights to him, too.”
In Casper, Marvin Witt and Mike Romero, together 30 years, made it official.
“We’ve been together for 30 years, let’s get this done,” Witt told the Casper Star-Tribune.
“It’s kind of cool,” Romero said as he filled out his marriage license form. “We wanted to come down here today to be part of history.”
The arrival of same-sex marriage in Wyoming was particularly significant because it is where gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was tortured and murdered 16 years ago in what was widely believed to have been an anti-gay hate crime, although serious doubts have since been raised as to the true motive behind the grisly attack.
“There’s definitely people who are holding up his memory and, I hope, feeling like we’re coming a long way,” Fulbright told the AP.
Wyoming joins six other mostly conservative or conservative-leaning states which have legalized same-sex marriage this month: Nevada, Idaho, West Virginia, North Carolina, Alaska and Arizona.
This avalanche of equality was made possible by the US Supreme Court, which earlier this month declined to take action on five appellate court cases regarding the legality of same-sex marriage in Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin and Indiana.
As of October 22, 32 states have legalized same-sex marriage. Fifteen states have done so in 2014. Same-sex marriage cases are pending in Texas, Michigan, Arkansas, Kentucky and Florida.
Back in Wyoming, the ‘Equality State,’ there was very little of the outspoken opposition to marriage equality seen in previous state battles.
“Even people who are opposed to this for whatever reason aren’t saying a lot because the tide has turned so much,” Jeran Artery, chairman of the LGBT advocacy group Wyoming Equality, told the Tribune Eagle. “There’s so much momentum behind this that they don’t want to speak out because it makes them look like they don’t want to look.”
It is now far easier to list the states which do not allow same-sex marriage: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.