News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Gay marriage in Wyoming? It's possible
Jul 2, 2013 - By Chris Peck
Wyoming is a conservative state. A live-and-let-live state. A state where people live together in small towns, and mostly have a habit of getting along. And where people like to get married more than most states.
Could all of this be bundled up as an argument for Wyoming becoming the next state to approve same sex marriage?
No chance, you say?
The argument could be made. Here's how.
True conservatives might be the first to jump on this bandwagon.
The heart of conservatism is all about less government regulation and more personal freedom.
Conservatives don't want government poking into places that don't have do with national security, or highways, or public education.
So why should the government be going into people's bedrooms to make laws and rules?
That's a question true conservatives should ask themselves right about now.
And then there is the whole Wyoming lifestyle.
You can wear a fur trapper's outfit around the state and nobody looks twice.
You want to own a gun, or 10 guns, OK.
You want to swim naked in a hot springs, well, it's your skin.
So why would Wyoming give much of a rat's rear who you lived with and who you loved?
From the state's earliest days there has been a strong current of public sentiment that in Wyoming people can get a fair shake, the even if they are different.
It's a reason that Wyoming women, 51 years before the 19th Amendment was approved to the U.S. Constitution, were granted the right to vote.
That happened in 1869.
And that was a much bigger deal in many ways than gay marriage.
Because in 1869, no state allowed women to vote. No state allowed women to serve on juries. No place in the nation allowed women to hold public office.
Except in Wyoming.
It took the rest of the country half a century to finally catch up and guarantee women the right to vote in 1920.
Today in America, gays and lesbians vote, serve on juries, and are elected to office in every state. Including Wyoming.
And in Wyoming, gay marriages from other states are not prohibited from recognition -- though many residents don't know that. Legislation prohibiting Wyoming from recognizing same-sex marriages licensed in other states has been defeated.
The University of Wyoming already allows same-sex domestic partners to get health insurance vouchers equivalent to what married couple get.
Many of the biggest companies doing business in Wyoming already grant same-sex couples full medical, retirement and household benefits.
Sure, there are some religious concerns about gay marriage in Wyoming. But again, Wyoming isn't nearly the hotbed of anti-gay religious fervor that boils over elsewhere.
Here, a majority of the population came from old European protestant nations: Germany, England, Scandinavia.
The Church of England has given up fighting against gay marriage.
In Germany, the parliament is rushing to pass a gay rights tax law right now.
And of course in this country, the U.S. Supreme Court just days ago declared unconstitutional the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied gay couples the same tax breaks and health benefits afforded the rest of us. The high court tossed out the challenge to California's gay marriage law. So, in the most populous state in the land, gay marriages will resume next month.
And what about the least populous state?
In Wyoming, we know this: People are pro marriage. In the Census Bureau's most recent data, Wyoming ranks in the top 10 most-married states in the country.
Wyoming believes in marriage.
People who live in Wyoming want to be married more than people in most other states.
So, you could fairly ask, what's the state waiting for?
Editor's note: Riverton native Chris Peck recently retired as editor of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. He is associate editor of The Ranger. He lives in Memphis, Tenn.