Wyoming Kills SB 1070 Copycat, Advances Same-Sex Marriage Ban

The Equality State's having an identity crisis.

By Julianne Hing Jan 25, 2011

Immigration restrictionists have gotten off to a quick start in 2011 to ram as many anti-immigration bills as they can through their state legislatures. State legislatures are in full swing now and anti-immigration bills, many modeled after Arizona’s SB 1070, are streaming into committees for review. Some pass, and some are shot down. On Monday the Wyoming House failed to move forward on HB 94, which would have made it a state crime not to carry proof of legal residence in the country, and would have allowed civilians to take their police officers to court if they felt like immigration laws were not being fully enforced.

On the same day though, the House passed HB 74, which would ban gay marriage in Wyoming. If passed, the state would refuse to honor same-sex marriages or civil unions performed in other states or in other countries, the Laramie Boomerang reported.

HB 94’s major backer Rep. Pete Illoway told the Billings Gazette that he designed the bill as an "Arizona clone" of SB 1070, the anti-immigration law signed into law last year that allows law enforcement officers to ask anyone they’ve detained for their immigration papers.

"This is not anti-immigration; it’s not anti-Hispanic," Illoway said yesterday when the bill was killed, the AP reported. "It could be called a legal versus illegal bill."

Others plainly disagreed, and came out to voice their opposition for the bill. Unlike in Arizona, Wyoming was able to successfully get a multifaceted coalition of business leaders, law enforcement officials and students out to oppose the anti-immigration bill.

Casper Police Chief Tom Pagel told the Billings Gazette that among his concerns with the bill, he opposed it because he wanted his officers dedicated to other priorities than enforcing immigration laws. "Do I have enough people that I would send them out to find illegal aliens?" Pagel asked. "No."

HB 74’s opponents argued that recognizing civil unions performed out of state costs the state nothing, and that contrary to anti-gay marriage proponents’ claims, does not harm children who are raised by gay parents.

Last Friday, Wyoming students came out to protest both HB 94 and HB 74, and said that both bills threaten the state’s tagline as the Equality State. "To be having these issues right now is unacceptable," University of Wyoming student Jose Gamboa told WGLB. "We’re alienating people. We’re separating individuals from the rest of us and we’re targeting minority groups, which shouldn’t be happening in this day and age."

Wyoming is the only state that bans same-sex marriages but recognizes out of state unions, reported the Casper Star-Tribune. A bill similar to HB 74 was killed in 2009.

HB 74’s supporters say the state must clear this discrepancy in its state laws, and the paper reports that State Sen. Curt Meier plans to soon file a bill that would update the Wyoming constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman.