Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Wyoming, state with gayest seal in US, advances domestic partnership bill, but rejects marriage equality

Trevor Brown of the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle reports that Yesterday, the Wyoming House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee voted 7-2 to recommend approval of a domestic partnership law, House Bill 168, and sent it to the full House.
     Voting for: Reps. Gregg Blikre, R-Gillette; James Byrd, D-Cheyenne; Matthias Greene, R-Laramie; Jerry Paxton, R-Encampment; Ruth Petroff, R-Jackson; Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, and Berger; against: Reps. Gerald Gay, R-Casper, and Dan Kirkbride, R-Chugwater.
     Approval came moments after the same committee voted 5-4 to reject a bill to legalize gay marriage in the state.
     Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, Wyoming's only openly gay state lawmaker, was the lead sponsor of both bills.
     HB 168 would allow gay couples to obtain the rights, responsibilities, protections and legal benefits of immediate family members. It also states that a domestic partnership is a “civil contract between two natural persons” who are at least 18 years old.
     ...Jeran Artery, chairman of Wyoming Equality, joked that he and his partner never dreamed of looking into each other’s eyes and saying, “I love you so much honey, and I want to domestic partnership you.” But he said the domestic partnership bill would still be a historic move by the state.
     ...Rep. Lynn Hutchings, R-Cheyenne, who is black, testified she is offended when gay-rights activists make comparisons between their struggles and the civil rights movement. She said that unlike race, people’s sexual orientation can be changed through the help of others.
     “Being black is the result of genetics; it is inborn,” she said. “Science does not (have) evidence of a genetic involvement to sexuality … it is a choice.”
     And she added that homosexuality can be dangerous. She cited AIDS, which she referred to as “gay-related immune deficiency or GRID” n a term more commonly used to describe the disease in the 1980s n as an example of those dangers.
     “Being black is innocuous, very harmless,” she said. “Homosexual behavior has been shown to be harmful to body, mind and spirit.”
     The bill must pass three readings before advancing to Wyoming's senate. Debate could start as early as today.
     John Celock of the Huffington Post noted that Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne), a vocal supporter of gay rights who aired the hearing live on UStream, praised Connolly for being able to stomach some of the opponents' hearing testimony.
"I wanted to publicly thank Rep. Connolly," he said. "I can't believe how unimaginably horrible it would be to sit next to someone being that downright insulting. For you to sit through that, I can't believe how hard that would be."

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