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Wyo. House defeats marriage amendment

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (BP)–The Wyoming House of Representatives defeated a constitutional marriage amendment Feb. 6, capping a busy week nationwide that saw both sides of the debate receive good and bad news.

It was a disappointing outcome for supporters, who had hoped to see Wyoming join the list of 30 states that already have adopted such amendments. Every state that borders Wyoming has a marriage amendment prohibiting the legalization of “gay marriage.”

Needing a two-thirds majority to pass and go to the Senate, the amendment received 25 votes for it and 35 votes against. If it had passed both bodies it would have been placed on the 2010 ballot. Republicans control both chambers.

“It’s my opinion that voters should be allowed to express their opinion on this social issue, and not leave the matter to the courts or some other source,” Rep. Owen Petersen, a Republican, said during floor debate, according to the Casper Star-Tribune.

Several members who privately or publicly had pledged to support the amendment voted against it, according to the pro-family WyWatch Family Institute.

“The elitist legislators decided not to accurately represent the people of Wyoming, and we certainly do hope that their constituents will take a look at their voting record and keep track of it for the election in 2010,” Becky Vandeberghe, chairwoman of WyWatch Family Institute, told the newspaper.

A December poll conducted for WyWatch, Focus on the Family Action and the Alliance Defense Fund showed 74 percent of registered voters likely would vote for a marriage amendment.

Also during the week:

–- Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a unique case that he believes the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. The non-binding ruling has no application for other courts and applies only to the “marriage” of a federal public defender who was seeking benefits for his partner. The two men were “married” in California. Reinhardt’s liberal beliefs are well-known within the legal realm. The federal Defense of Marriage Act prevents the federal government from recognizing “gay marriage” and gives states the option to do the same.

“As far as legal precedent, it has no significance,” Glenn Lavy, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, told Baptist Press. “This is not a decision of the Ninth Circuit. It is a single judge making a decision about benefits…. [But] I don’t think he should have reached the issue. The marriage license that this employee has is no longer valid. The California constitution says that only marriage between a man and a woman shall be recognized. So, that is not a valid marriage, and yet Judge Reinhardt is saying that it is a marriage that must be recognized by the federal government.”

— New York state Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith, a Democrat, made it clear that a bill that would legalize “gay marriage” likely would not pass this session. The governor has pledged to sign it if it passes.

“Although we do not have the number of votes at this time needed to pass the marriage equality gender bill this legislative session, we are committed to pursuing its passage,” Smith told a gathering of “gay marriage” supporters Feb. 7, according to The New York Times.

–– A New Jersey state judge, Mary Jacobson, ruled Feb. 6 that “gay marriages” performed outside the state can be recognized within the state for the purpose of divorce, the Associated Press reported. The case involved a lesbian couple “married” in Canada. New Jersey law prohibits “gay marriage.”

— The Hawaii state House Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would legalize same-sex civil unions, sending it to the full body. The bill would give homosexual couples all the legal benefits of marriage.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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