(Casper, WY, October 17, 2014)—Today, U.S. District Court Judge Scott W. Skavdahl of the District of Wyoming ruled in favor of the freedom to marry in the challenge to the State of Wyoming’s ban on marriage equality. The court’s order granted a request by four same-sex couples and Wyoming Equality, who had filed a federal lawsuit challenging Wyoming’s marriage ban, for an order requiring the state to allow couples to begin marrying immediately.
Citing two decisions of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit striking down Utah’s and Oklahoma’s bans on marriage for same-sex couples, Judge Skavdahl ruled that Wyoming’s refusal to permit same-sex couples to marry is unconstitutional. Judge Skavdahl ordered the state to begin issuing marriage licenses, but placed that order temporarily on hold to permit Wyoming state officials to appeal his ruling. Marriages will begin in Wyoming at 5:00 pm on Thursday, October 23, or as soon as the state officials defending the challenge inform the court that they do not intend to appeal, whichever is sooner.
The case was brought by Wyoming Equality and four same-sex couples who requested an immediate order directing state officials to comply with two decisions of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit establishing that a state’s refusal to allow same-sex couples to marry violates the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court on October 6th let those appeals court decisions stand, meaning that all states within the Tenth Circuit, including Wyoming, must comply with those decisions.
The plaintiff couples are Anne Guzzo and Bonnie Robinson of Laramie, Carl Oleson and Rob Johnston of Casper, and Ivan Williams and Chuck Killion of Cheyenne, who previously filed a state-court lawsuit challenging Wyoming’s marriage ban. Also joining the lawsuit are Brie Barth and Shelly Montgomery of Carpenter, who attempted to obtain a marriage license in Wyoming after the Supreme Court decision but were refused. 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).
Said Wyoming Equality Executive Director Jeran Artery: “We are overwhelmed and overjoyed by the swiftness of the court’s decision. Today’s decision means marriage is a certainty for loving, committed, same sex couples living in the Equality State, and also a victory for everyone who believes in justice, fairness and freedom. We have received so much support from so many people, and we are looking forward to these same sex couples receiving marriage licenses very soon.”
Said NCLR Senior Staff Attorney Christopher F. Stoll: “Today’s ruling means that Wyoming will now join the majority of states that permit all families to enjoy the security, respect, and protection that marriage provides. Wyoming’s same-sex couples and their children will live in a state that treats their families with the same respect as other families. We congratulate the couples who will now be able to marry in the Equality State and have the security of knowing that those marriages will be respected.”