Friday, February 23, 2007

If Wyoming Can Do It, Is There Hope For Indiana?

Wyoming has a state law limiting marriages in that state to the union of one man and one woman. That law, however, does not specifically prohibit Wyoming from recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages as do many other state Defense of Marriage laws. The religious right wanted to change that with legislation aimed at closing what some would say is a "loophole." Wyoming's Republican Speaker of the House saw it otherwise.

House Speaker Roy Cohee (R) cast the deciding vote in the House Rules Committee to defeat the bill. News accounts don't say what led Cohee to join a couple of his GOP colleagues to kill the anti-gay marriage bill. Maybe he thought the state should live up to its slogan--the Equality State. Here's how a public television program explained why some GOP members surprised everyone and cast a vote against discriminatory of Wyoming's gay citizens:

Rep. Pat Childers (R-Cody) spoke proudly of his gay daughter, “who was born that way,” and Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne) said that his study of American history revealed an ongoing extension of liberties and freedoms, “and if it costs me my seat…I can say I stood up for basic rights, and history can be my judge.”

Some legislators appeared to wrestle with their decisions right up to the end of the hearing. Rep. Tom Lubnau (R-Gillette), who had questioned the cost of extending recognition to out-of-state gay marriages, concluded, “Maybe the right thing to do is to stand up for tolerance.”

But Simpson, surprisingly, voted for the bill. That left it to Speaker Roy Cohee (R-Casper) to cast the deciding vote, as the measure was killed by a 7-6 vote.

In a fairly lackluster session, it was a dramatic, revealing, and dignified, exchange.

Massachusetts is the only state in the nation which grants full marriage rights to same-sex couples. Massachusetts law does not, however, permit an out-of-state same-sex couple to get a marriage license in that state. Wyoming's same-sex couples, who get their marriage license in Canada or another country which allows same-sex marriages, would be able to have them legally recognized by the state of Wyoming under current state law. Indiana's DOMA, unlike Wyoming's DOMA, prohibits recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages: "A marriage between persons of the same gender is void in Indiana even if the marriage is lawful in the place where it is solemnized."

Folks here in Indiana would be happy to find a few more tolerant Democrats, let alone Republicans. If Wyoming can face down the religious right on these mean-spirited efforts to legislate discrimination against gays and lesbians, you'd think there would be some folks with enough backbone to do the same here. Sadly, this year may be shaping up as the most disastrous on our own state legislative front. House Speaker Pat Bauer's Democratic leadership did not even allow a hearing on Rep. Jeb Bardon's anti-discrimination bill, HB 1716. Rep. Greg Porter's HB 1459, the hate crimes bill, seems imperiled as it clings to life on second reading with a Tuesday deadline fast approaching after being passed over for consideration today. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R), a strident anti-gay legislator, has filed non-germane amendments to the bill designed to flame other favorite issues of the religious right, including the abortion issue. It would indeed be sad if House Democrats used that poor excuse for not calling down HB 1459. And then there's SJR-7--just waiting for the House's action. Is it time to move to another state?


Wilson46201 said...

I'm a 65-year-old gay Hoosier. Both sides of my family were in Indiana since before the Civil War. I'll be damned if I'll let a few bigots drive me away. I helped organize the first gay-rights group ever in this state back in Bloomington in 1970. Within a decade, the sodomy laws were repealed! Change often takes time but then happens with amazing dazzling speed.

Hang on in there!

Anonymous said...

I'm with you, Wilson. My mother's family was here before Indiana's statehood. I'm not running away, either.

Anonymous said...

I'm tired and worn out. You can stay and fight.

If we lose this one, I'm gone.

And thanks to our "leaders" it looks like we might lose.

The courage of these Wyoming legislators is startlingly simple.
May their tribe mutiply.

Anonymous said...

So where are you moving, 7:11?

Anonymous said...

Being a Hoosier for all of my life and now serving as a pastor in Wyoming, I was glad to see the Wyoming Legislature put this forward. But alas, it failed to pass.

garyj said...

As a hetero sexual male, I don't care what ywo people do in the privacy of their own home?
I suppose i shouold read the whole thing to get a better understanding, but since it doesn't effect me personally, i probably won't.
Whats the whole purpose behind gays wanting to marry anyway?
Insurance benefits and survivor beenfits are the only thing that I can see there.
Anything else can be covered by a will.
Am I missing something ?

Wilson46201 said...

The Feds did a big study and listed over 1000 benefits that accrue solely to married couples.

Turn the question on its head: why do heterosexual couples want to get married? Probably the same reasons as same-sex couples.

The Brits did a detailed study of the number of likely gay couples if same-sex marriage were legalized in the UK. From that study, I projected that 5000 Hoosier gay couples would sign up.