Family & Relationships
Same-Sex Couples and Wyoming Equality File Lawsuit Seeking the Freedom to Marry in Wyoming
(Cheyenne, WY, March 5, 2014)—Today, four same-sex couples and Wyoming Equality filed a lawsuit in state court in Cheyenne challenging Wyoming’s laws that prohibit same-sex couples from marrying and refuse to respect the legal marriages of same-sex couples who married in other states.
The couples include a university professor, a Major in the Army Reserve, a sheepherder, and an attorney. Many of the Plaintiffs were born and raised in Wyoming.
The lawsuit challenges Wyoming’s statute barring same-sex couples from marrying and the state’s refusal to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who married in other states, arguing that they violate the Wyoming Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process.
The couples are Cora Courage and Wyoma “Nonie” Proffit of Evanston, Carl Oleson and Rob Johnston of Casper, Anne Guzzo and Bonnie Robinson of Laramie, and Ivan Williams and Chuck Killion of Cheyenne. Wyoming Equality is the state’s largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Wyoming’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Its members include same-sex couples throughout the state.
The four couples and Wyoming Equality are represented by Cheyenne attorney Tracy Zubrod, the law firm of Arnold & Porter LLP, the law firm of Rathod Mohamedbahi LLC, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).
Cora Courage, who is the Clinical Director at the state psychiatric hospital and a Major in the Army Reserve, said: “As a member of the military, having the federal government recognize our marriage was a huge step forward, but Wyoming’s refusal to do the same has left our family without critical legal protections that many married couples are able to take for granted.”
Anne Guzzo, a professor at the University of Wyoming, said: “I love Wyoming. This state has always been my home; even when I left for graduate school, I knew that I would come back. And as much as I love this state, it is frustrating to live in the “Equality State” and to be treated differently by the government because of who I love. It scares me that in times of crisis we will have to rely on the kindness of strangers to respect our relationship because the State of Wyoming will not let Bonnie and me share in the responsibilities and protections of marriage. I look forward to the day that we will be able to marry before our family and friends in the state we call home.”
Said Jeran Artery, Executive Director of Wyoming Equality: “Wyoming has a proud history of being the “Equality State” and its refusal to allow same-sex couples to marry is contrary to the core values of our state. The couples in this case, and all same-sex couples in Wyoming, deserve to be treated with equal fairness and respect, including having the same freedom to marry that others enjoy.”
Added NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter: “The law should support stable families, not make it harder for committed couples to support one another and protect their children. Barring same-sex couples from marriage causes great harm to these families and their children while helping no one.”
Public support for the freedom to marry for same-sex couples has increased rapidly across the nation. On Tuesday, March 4, 2014, former United States Senator Alan Simpson, a Wyoming Republican, joined other conservatives and Republicans from Western states in urging a federal appeals court to uphold a lower court ruling striking down Utah’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples.
About the Plaintiffs
Cora Courage and Nonie Proffit
Cora Courage and Nonie Proffit, of Evanston, have been together for over nine years and were married in Iowa in 2009. Cora is the Clinical Director at the state psychiatric hospital and a Major in the Army Reserve. Nonie is a part-time librarian and sheepherder for their family’s ranch.
Carl Oleson & Rob Johnston
Carl Oleson and Rob Johnston, of Casper, have been together for sixteen years and were married in Canada in July 2010. Carl manages a retail store and Rob is the program director for Project ReGain, which teaches skills to people who are recovering from addiction.
Anne Guzzo & Bonnie Robinson
Anne Guzzo and Bonnie Robinson have been together for four years and reside in Laramie. Anne is a professor of music composition and theory at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. Bonnie is a property manager. On February 27, 2014, they applied for a marriage license at the Laramie County Clerk’s Office in Cheyenne and were rejected because they are a same-sex couple.
Ivan Williams & Chuck Killion
Ivan Williams and Chuck Killion have been together for nearly two years and reside in Cheyenne. Ivan is an attorney. Chuck is a comptroller at a local construction and development company. On February 27, 2014, they applied for a marriage license at the Laramie County Clerk’s Office in Cheyenne and were rejected because they are a same-sex couple. The County Clerk later asked the First Judicial District Court in Cheyenne to determine whether she was obligated to reject the couples’ applications for marriage licenses because of Wyoming’s statutory prohibition on marriage by same-sex couples, or whether denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples is unconstitutional, requiring issuance of licenses to same-sex couples.
Wyoming Equality is the state’s largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Wyoming’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. The organization carries out that mission through public education, grassroots organizing, and advocacy with policymakers. Its members include same-sex couples throughout the state.