UW Law Professor: "Gay Marriage Should Be Legal In Wyoming Now"

Oct 9, 2014

Credit Mark Fischer via Flickr

On Monday the United State Supreme Court declined to hear challenges to federal court rulings that had overturned bans on gay marriage in states across the country. One of those federal courts was the 10th circuit court, which is based in Denver and has authority over Wyoming.

Governor Matt Mead acknowledges the authority of the federal court, but has continued to try and block gay marriage in Wyoming; while advocacy groups like Wyoming Equality say gay marriage is already legal here. Wyoming Public Radio’s Miles Bryan sat down with UW Constitutional Law Professor Stephen Feldman to talk about some of these legal issues.

The law, Professor Feldman says, is clear: same sex marriage should be legal in Wyoming.

“Unquestionably, from my perspective, Wyoming should follow the 10th Circuit Decision--which includes Wyoming--which says a ban on same sex marriage violates the national constitution,” he says.

“Technically the governor can resist for a very brief period of time. He can wait until [an advocacy group like Wyoming Equality] gets a ruling from a Wyoming federal district court...that district court is bound to follow the 10th Circuit decision. They should summarily issue a ruling, and the law should allow same sex marriage to proceed.”

Governor Mead has frequently referenced a separate, state lawsuit, being brought by Wyoming Equality against Wyoming’s statute that bans same sex marriage. That case is being argued only in reference to the Wyoming state constitution. Mead says that same sex marriage in Wyoming is dependent on the outcome of that lawsuit. Feldman says that is wrong.

“The only possible relevance of the state lawsuit is if sometime in the future the Supreme Court were to become involved...If say, they accept a review in a year from now. They could feasibly come down with a decision saying banning same sex marriage is acceptable with the U.S. Constitution...If Wyoming Equality wins its state lawsuit Wyoming would have gay marriage, even if it wasn’t guaranteed by the Supreme Court.”

Feldman says that if Wyoming Equality wins its state lawsuit it would mean that gay marriage was guaranteed by the Wyoming state constitution--insulating it from a possibly different opinion from the US Supreme Court at a later date.

But, he says, as of now same sex marriage should be legal in Wyoming.