Shred marriage licenses in statement of solidarity with Wyoming's gays and lesbians
As the state Senate prepared to open the debate of House Bill 74 - Equality of marriage, Equality State advocates rallied in front of the Capitol under a bright sun and in a brisk Wyoming wind to declare their support for their gay and lesbian neighbors' right to expect equal treatment under the law.
Rodger McDaniel, a former legislator, state official, and local pastor, told the crowd that a local Jewish rabbi recently discussed the human propensity to discriminate against fellow humans in order to lift their own self esteem. Quoting the Biblical story of Moses and Pharoah, the rabbi noted that discrimination is a natural behavior because it makes people feel better about themselves and superior to others.
McDaniel termed this effect "the benefit of bigotry." With the state planning to void same-sex marriage contracts from other states that it now recognizes by passing HB 74, McDaniel and his wife Pat produced their own heterosexual marriage contract that provides them many legal and social benefits. It gives them benefits the state wants to deny same-sex marriages.
As the material symbol of the benefits the state will give heterosexual couples and, by discriminating, deny to same-sex couples, McDaniel and his wife said they would shred their contract.
"We don't intend to quietly accept the benefits of bigotry," he said.
Speaking in front of the statue of Esther Hobart Morris which memorializes Wyoming as the Equality State for being the first government in the world to recognize women's right to vote, McDaniel and other speakers, including state Reps. Joe Barbuto, Stan Blake, Cathy Connolly and Sen. Cale Case urged the crowd to keep up their fight to defeat HB 74.
"We can do this," Case said, though he warned the enthusiastic crowd that a vote to kill the bill was unlikely Wednesday. He predicted the bill can be killed if people work hard to convince wavering senators that Wyoming people want them to honor its constitution that guarantees equal treatment of all.
He was right. The Senate engaged in a lively debate in which Sen. Phil Nicholas challenged proponents to explain what the bill will really do and Sen. Floyd Esquibel asked them to explain how the state benefits by passage of the bill. The bill was approved in a standing vote of 17-12 with the chairman not voting.
The bill will be considered again on second reading today. An amendment to modify the bill's outright ban of civil unions is expected to be offered.
The ESPC opposes HB 74 and urges everyone to ask their senator to vote NO to stop its passage.
Video and still photography courtesy Ron Sniffin.