Wyoming Couples Ask State Court to Declare Ban on Same-Sex Marriage as Unconstitutional

BTL Staff

CHEYENNE, WY - On July 1 the plaintiffs challenging the State of Wyoming's refusal to permit same-sex couples to marry asked a state district court to declare the ban on marriage equality as unconstitutional. The four couples with Equality Michigan filed a motion asking for the court to rule that the State's Freedom to Marry ban violates equal protection and the due process guarantees of the Wyoming Constitution.

The hearing has yet to be scheduled. The plaintiffs filed their lawsuit challenging Wyoming's marriage ban on March 5 of this year. The couples include a university professor, a Major in the Army Reserve, a sheepherder and an attorney, many of whom who were born and raised in the state.

"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, Executive Director of Wyoming Equality, Jeran Artery said. "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."

The four couples are represented by Tracy Zubrod of the law firm of Arnold and Porter LLP, the law firm of Rathod Mohamedbahi LLC and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

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 plaintiff's papers state that since last June, every state and federal court to consider the issue of marriage equality has ruled in favor of the freedom to marry and that 17 states have struck down state laws prohibiting marriage for same-sex couples. Public support for the freedom to marry has increased rapidly throughout the nation. Just this past March former US Senator Alan Simpson, a Wyoming Republican, joined other conservatives and Republicans from Western states in urging federal appeals court to a lower court ruling striking down Utah's ban on same-sex marriage.

Banning same-sex marriage does more harm than good on a state, federal and local level. The USA has spoken, the people want to see change. And it's happening, one state at a time.

"Barring same-sex couples from marriage has only one effect: to harm and stigmatize one group of Wyoming families," NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter said. "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."

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

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.


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