Wyoming Supreme Court: Same-Sex Marriages Are Not ‘Contrary To The Law Of Nature’

Yesterday, the Wyoming Supreme Court “unanimously reversed a district court ruling, allowing a same-sex couple to obtain a divorce in Niobrara County.” The ruling means that the “state’s courts have jurisdiction to grant the divorce of a same-sex couple who were legally married in Canada.”

The opinion lays out three different types of marriages: legal marriages between a man and a woman that are recognized by the state of Wyoming, marriages that the state does not recognize but are common in other states (like common law marriages) and a third very low form of marriage that is “deemed contrary to the law of nature.” Significantly, the Court found that same-sex marriage fit into the second category and likened them to common law marriages which, while not recognized by the state, can be dissolved within it:

Under common law, this rule of validation, otherwise known as the rule of lex loci celebrationis, is subject to “certain recognized exceptions, namely, marriages which are deemed contrary to the law of nature as generally recognized in Christian countries, such as polygamous and incestuous marriages, and those which the legislature of the state has declared shall not be allowed any validity, because contrary to the policy of its laws.” Hoagland, 27 Wyo. at 180-81, 193 P. at 843-44 (Wyo. 1920).

The policy exception is necessarily narrow, lest it swallow the rule. It is not enough that a marriage would not be valid if solemnized in Wyoming. Common law marriages provide a good example. […] Likewise, recognizing a valid foreign same-sex marriage for the limited purpose of entertaining a divorce proceeding does not lessen the law or policy in Wyoming against allowing the creation of same-sex marriages.

The Court does stress that the opinion is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage — “The question of recognition of such same-sex marriages for any other reason, being not properly before us, is left for another day,” it says — but it’s certainly moving the state in the right direction.

Wyoming state law defines marriage as a union between a man and woman, but recognizes marriages performed in other states.