Wyoming lawmakers introduced a bill in
the House Monday that aims to define marriage as a heterosexual union
in the state's constitution.
The new bill would let Wyoming voters
decide on an amendment to the state constitution that would deny
recognition of gay marriages performed in other states.
There are currently only two states in
the United States – Massachusetts and Connecticut – that grant
gay couples the benefits found in marriage. But bills in four states
– Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont – and two
expected state Supreme Court decisions in Iowa and California appear
likely to increase that number this year.
Republican Representative Owen
Petersen, the bill's primary sponsor, has declined to comment on the
The state of Wyoming currently bans gay
marriage by law, but opponents say the state remains vulnerable
without a constitutional amendment.
Thirty states have amended their
constitutions to ban gay marriage. Some simply define marriage as a
union between a man and a woman, while others go farther, explicitly
denying any marriage-like recognition, including civil unions.
Focus on the Family Action, the
Colorado Springs-based conservative Christian group, has been pushing
to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot.
Last week the group began a telephone
lobbying campaign in Wyoming. The group is calling on voters to
encourage their Senators to support the anti-gay bill.
The newly formed WyWatch Family
Institute also supports the bill. The group is closely associated
with Focus on the Family and the Arizona-based conservative Christian
legal group the Alliance Defense Fund.
“We're trying to protect the
children, because when you have a same-sex marriage, you're denying
that child either a mother or a father,” WyWatch Chairwoman Becky
Vandeberghe told the Associated Press. “And the family unit
is very, very precious to us, and we want to make sure that every
child has that.”
Equality Wyoming, the state's gay
rights lobby, helped defeat a similar bill in 2007. But the group's
spokesman Bob Spencer said defeating the ban this year might be more
difficult. Three similar bans were approved by voters in Arizona,
California and Florida on November 4.
“I think it just means that there's
been a general movement toward more accepting, and therefore I think
it makes our legislators, who are quite conservative, more
defensive,” he said.