Federal Judge Overturns Wyoming’s Ban On Same-Sex Marriage

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Friday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl ruled that Wyoming’s statutory law banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and unenforceable. This sets up Wyoming to be the 32nd state with marriage equality, but Skavdahl stayed his decision until next Thursday, allowing the state time to appeal.

The decision largely defers to the Tenth Circuit’s precedent from the Utah and Oklahoma cases, but Skavdahl did offer a bit of his own commentary. Referring to Wyoming’s claims that an abrupt implementation of same-sex marriage would interrupt the work of state agencies, he wrote, “The fact is State Defendants failed to offer even a scintilla of evidence to support their assertion that a preliminary injunction would cause such administrative nightmares.”

Also, addressing the notion that the law was passed fairly, he pointed out that “there is undoubtedly a public interest in having the will of Wyoming’s voters and legislators carried out, but that interest is overridden by the public’s interest in protection fundamental rights.”

Explaining the week-long stay, Skavdahl wrote, “The Court understands that every day where same-sex couples are denied their constitutional rights is another day filled with irreparable harm. But it is at least equally important that all same-sex marriages carry the same prominence and finality that attend opposite-sex marriage, including the various obligations and liabilities incumbent within the marital relationship.”

Laramie County Clerk Debra Lathrop has already responded that she will not appeal, but the state has not yet clarified its response. As reported earlier, Gov. Matt Mead (R) said this week that he doesn’t believe the state should appeal the ruling, but that’s not a guarantee that it won’t.

There are three states remaining that are impacted by circuit court rulings but that do not yet have marriage equality: South Carolina, Montana, and Kansas.