With newly-earned majorities, Republicans are now seizing the opportunity to impose their right-wing ideology on the people they govern. GOP-led states across the nation are cracking down on constituencies seemingly distasteful to the conservative element, be it public employees, uninsured Americans, immigrants, Muslims, women, children, and gay people.
Now, the ironically named “Equality State” of Wyoming is joining the great march backwards. Yesterday, its state Senate agreed to consider a bill passed by the House that would void out-of-state same-sex marriages and civil unions. The “Defense of Marriage” bill would strip such couples of the “legal obligations, responsibilities, protections or benefits afforded or recognized by the law of Wyoming to married persons and spouses” while in Wyoming. This means that hospital visitation, medical decisions, property, and life insurance rights would all be voided. In other words, the bill “would force same-sex couples to go through a much more lengthy and costly process to obtain only some of the legal rights that heterosexual couples obtain through one ceremony.”
But Republican state Senator Cale Case is bucking his party over this radical anti-civil rights effort. Demanding that his colleagues “kill this bill…right now,” Case was aghast that Wyoming would even consider telling Wyoming visitors that “you’re magically not together anymore.” Listing the “enormous practical implications” this would have on unsuspecting citizens, including American soldiers, Case refused to turn people “into second class citizens.” “You can’t do that,” he said. “We’re an Equality State“:
“We should kill this bill. We should kill it right now,” [Case] said. “We should kill it because it’s not very well thought out. It has enormous practical implications.”[…]
“What about the millions of people that visit Wyoming? That just come for vacation,” he said. “We’re so proud of our visitors, now we’re going to say all of you visitors who happen to be from another state, when you come across the border, you’re magically not together any more. ‘Poof.’ It’s gone. Don’t get into a car wreck. If you’re in a hospital and you’re dying, and your partner is with you, we’re going to have to call your mother because that’s the nearest relative that we’re going to recognize under Wyoming (law) to make decisions about your life.”[…]
“Gays and lesbians live and work among us. They’re also soldiers in the military,”he said. “They’ve been here and talked about their service in Iraq and … now you’re going to deny them the benefits (of marriage of civil unions).”[…]
“When you go home, you’re going to look people in the eye,” he said. “You’re going to tell them you made them into second-class citizens today if you pass this. You can’t do that. We’re the Equality State.”
Case was joined by state Sens. John Hastert (D) and Chris Rothfuss (D), who called HB 74 a “lousy bill” that “basically tries to make a statutory inequality not just in the state of Wyoming, but to make sure we’re spreading the inequality nationwide so that anybody who comes here is treated just as unequally as the gays in our state.” Hastert called it a “modern day witch hunt.” 30 clergy and lay leaders of the Wyoming Episcopal Church agreed: “This bill will cause all sorts of hardships on our citizens and put a lie to our claim to be the Equality State.”