Wyoming Couples and Wyoming Equality Ask State Court to Declare State’s Ban on Marriage for Same-Sex Couples Unconstitutional
(Cheyenne, WY, July 1, 2014)—Today, the plaintiffs challenging the State of Wyoming’s refusal to permit same-sex couples to marry asked a state district court to declare that the state’s ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional. The four couples and Equality Wyoming filed a motion asking the court to rule that Wyoming’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples violates the equal protection and due process guarantees of the Wyoming Constitution. No hearing has yet been scheduled for the court to consider the couples’ request.
The plaintiffs filed their lawsuit challenging Wyoming’s marriage ban on March 5, 2014. The couples include a university professor, a Major in the Army Reserve, a sheepherder, and an attorney. Many of them were born and raised in Wyoming.
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).
The couples’ papers note that since last June, every state and federal court to consider the issue has ruled in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the federal government’s discrimination against married same-sex couples violates the federal constitutional requirements of equal protection and due process. Since then, courts in 17 states have struck down state laws prohibiting marriage for same-sex couples or refusing to respect the existing marriages of same-sex couples.
Said Wyoming Equality Executive Director Jeran Artery: “Like many Wyoming same-sex couples, the couples in this case have built their lives and families together in this state, worked hard at their jobs, and contributed to their communities. All we are asking in this case is that the state treat Wyoming’s same-sex couples as it would treat any other family. This is a matter of basic fairness and respect.”
Added NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter: “Barring same-sex couples from marriage has only one effect: to harm and stigmatize one group of Wyoming families. The law should protect all families equally, including the families formed by same-sex couples. Equal respect for all families is not only good policy, it is a basic freedom protected by the Wyoming Constitution.”
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.
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.