Saturday, January 29, 2011

Wyoming Civil Unions Bill Fails in Committee

     Sad news from Wyoming today. In a 5-4 decision, state lawmakers voted to kill the legislation and not allow it to go to the floor for a vote. Citing reasons like the ambiguity of the bill, the two swing votes, voted against the legislation.

     What continues to astound me, is that those who want to "protect" traditional marriage most always oppose civil unions. They say that they do so because civil unions are just a "stepping stone" to gay marriage. Stepping stone or not, the real reason why they oppose civil unions is because they don't want LGBT people to have their relationships recognized by the government. Marriage is not the issue - it is that they want to keep their heterosexual relationships superior to gay and lesbian ones.

        Anyway, this news is rather disheartening for Wyoming, for though there is no chance for a marriage equality bill to be passed any time soon in the state, there was a possibility that if the civil unions bill would have reached the full legislature for a vote it would have been approved.  The Casper Star Tribune reports...

 Legislation that would have made Wyoming the third state to recognize civil unions narrowly failed in the House Judiciary Committee on Friday.
The 5-4 vote to defeat House Bill 150 came after hours of impassioned testimony from supporters who said civil unions would give same-sex couples basic rights and opponents who claimed civil unions were a thinly disguised stepping stone to gay marriage.
But state Reps. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne, and Frank Peasley, R-Douglas, who cast the deciding votes against the bill, opposed the proposal not on ideological grounds, but rather because they worried the wording of the bill -- which almost exactly mirrored the rights and responsibilities Wyoming law lists for marriage -– could lead to legal pitfalls in the future.
For example, Peasley pointed to a part of the bill stating that in a Wyoming civil union, like a marriage, the man in the partnership would be considered the father if the woman gets pregnant.
"What if it's two women that get into a civil union and one of them's pregnant?" Peasley asked. "How do we work that one?"
State Rep. Cathy Connolly, the Laramie Democrat who sponsored the bill, answered that "those were sticky wicket questions that might end up in court."
Nicholas, who supports civil unions in theory, also said Wyoming law already provides many of the same legal benefits the legislation sought to give civil union partners. For example, he said, whenever two Wyomingites who have joint assets split up, state courts have an established process for deciding how their property and assets should be divided.
Nicholas and Peasley, like a majority of Wyoming legislators, believe marriage should only be between a man and a woman. Earlier this week, the Wyoming Senate passed a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and the House narrowly approved a bill prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriages and civil unions from out of state.
On Friday, Judiciary Committee members killed a different bill by Connolly that would have legalized gay marriage outright; no committee members even moved to vote on the legislation, House Bill 149.
However, many anti-gay marriage legislators this session have said they see civil unions as an acceptable compromise -– so long, Nicholas said, as civil unions aren't just marriage by another name.
"There are ways to recognize a civil union -– you can try and put it together in a one-page bill," Nicholas said. "All you have to do is say you'll recognize [out-of-state] civil unions here as being a binding contract."

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