Equally Wed

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A proposed amendment to the Wyoming Constitution that would specify the state wouldn't recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere died Friday when it missed a procedural deadline in the state Legislature.

The Wyoming House adjourned without taking action on a same-sex marriage bill that had already passed the state Senate. Passing the measure would have required a two-thirds vote in both houses.

House Majority Floor Leader Rep. Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette, said he didn't want to spend hours of floor time debating a bill that didn't have the votes to pass. The Legislature is set to adjourn next week.

Another bill was still pending that would change Wyoming law to specify that the state would only recognize marriages between one man and one woman. Disagreement remained between the House and Senate over whether the state should allow same-sex couples who entered civil unions elsewhere to have access to the state court system to resolve any issues that arise in their relationships.

Rep. Amy Edmonds said that considering the differences in the House and Senate positions on the bills, she believed its future is "tenuous at best." The Cheyenne Republican served on a conference committee assigned to work out a compromise position on the pending bill.

Proponents of the both marriage bills have said Wyoming needs to clarify its law now that same-sex marriages are being performed in other states.

Wyoming law specifies marriage can only exist between a man and a woman, but also says the state will recognize valid marriages performed in other states.

The issue of whether Wyoming courts have authority over same-sex marriages performed elsewhere is pending before the state Supreme Court. The court is reviewing a case in which a district judge ruled that he didn't have authority to preside over a divorce case involving two women who married each other in Canada.

The Obama administration announced this week that it would no longer defend challenges to the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that bans recognition of same-sex marriage.

Linda Burt, director of the Wyoming ACLU, has testified in committee hearings against both same-sex marriage bills. She applauded the death of one of the bills in the House.

"Certainly those bills that take a minority group of people and tell them they can't have the same rights that other people have are unconstitutional," Burt said.

Brianna Jones, communications director for the Wyoming Democratic Party, said the entire Democratic Party caucus in the Legislature had been against the bill.

"They didn't think it was an appropriate thing to put in the Wyoming Constitution," Jones said. "It also violated several clauses in the Constitution, particularly the equal protection clauses."

Becky Vandeberghe, of the group WyWatch Family Action, worked to support the bill, and said the group would "continue to work toward getting marriage protected and giving people the vote."

She said her group intends to work to elect people in the future who will vote to support the issue. "We'll go ahead and bring it back," she said.

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