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Couples challenge Wyoming ban on same-sex marriage

Four same-sex couples filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] in Wyoming state court on Wednesday challenging the constitutionality of the state's restriction of marriage to one man and one woman. The couples, along with the civil rights advocacy group Wyoming Equality [advocacy website], are challenging Wyoming's law [text] banning same-sex marriage and the state's refusal to legally recognize same-sex marriages from other states. The couples claim that the law violates the due process and equal protection guarantees of the Wyoming Constitution [text]. The complaint, referencing Wyoming's state motto, "Equal Rights," argues that despite Wyoming's Constitution's "more robust protection against legal discrimination than the Federal Constitution," the state excludes same-sex marriages by not legally recognizing them. This lack of recognition, the couples argue, deprive them and their children of many legal protections afforded other Wyoming families, such as spousal insurance coverage, parental rights and the right to make medical decisions for an incapacitated spouse. One of the plaintiffs, Anne Guzzo, commented, [press release] "It scares me that in times of crisis we will have to rely on the kindness of strangers to respect our relationship."

The Wyoming lawsuit is the latest episode in the ongoing controversy regarding same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder]. On Tuesday a federal judge refused [JURIST report] to block Wisconsin's ban on same-sex marriage, at least until resolution of a current lawsuit challenging that state's gay-marriage ban. Kentucky's governor announced [JURIST report] Tuesday that the state will be appealing a February federal district court order [JURIST report] requiring recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages. That ruling declared Kentucky's constitutional definition of marriage of "one man and one woman" a violation of state and federal constitutional law. Last month, a Texas district court judge ruled [JURIST report] that the Texas constitution, which also defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, violates the federal constitutional guarantee of equal protection and due process. Similar lawsuits have recently been litigated in such states as Virginia, Illinois, Oregon and Colorado [JURIST reports], all on the heels of the US Supreme Court's ruling last summer in US v. Windsor [JURIST report], which struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act [text; JURIST news archive].

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