BREAKING NEWS: Judge Will Decide Later On Gay Marriage Preliminary Injunction Request
A federal judge will issue a ruling by 5 p.m. Monday about a demand by four gay couples to declare unconstitutional Wyoming law's definition of marriage as between a male and female, which would allow them to marry and/or have their marriages out of state be recognized in the state..
During the 65-minute hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl asked plaintiffs' counsel, Thomas Stoever, if "...by a stroke of a pen, you are asking me to change state law?"
Stoever replied, "We are asking you to enforce the rights under the Constitution."
The attorney for the state, Jared Crecelius thought it was a good question, "...but it seems a little hasty in this action," he said.
The state is essentially asking for more time as, "...this is a long-standing and deep-rooted law," Crecelius said.
On Oct. 7, four same-sex couples have asked the court for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order demanding federal court declare unconstitutional under the Wyoming’s statute defining marriage as “‘between a male and female person,’” as well as the state’s practice or refusing to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples from out of state. The definition violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment, according to the complaint.
A favorable ruling for the plaintiffs would allow county clerks to issue marriage licenses, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit came immediately on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Oct. 6 to decline to review several rulings that upheld the rights of gay couples to marry. That action included a ruling from the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The lawsuit started a barrage of legal filings last week and through the holiday weekend, with eight filings on Wednesday alone.
The state's attorneys filed their response on Monday.
Mead and the other defendants -- Department of Administration and Information Director Dean Fauseet, Human Resources Division Administrator Dave Urquidez and Laramie County Clerk Debra Lathrop -- responded that the plaintiffs have not met the requirements for a preliminary injunction, and that they should have challenged Wyoming law much earlier.
The plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to marry, they will not be harmed if a preliminary injunction is not granted, they have not given the state adequate time to respond to the lawsuit, the injunction would forces hardships on many state agencies, and the state defines domestic relationships and not the federal government.
"The severe impact upon the State, an abrupt summary ruling that Wyoming's historic marriage laws are unconstitutional, along with the consequentially profound change to the State's and the local authorities' administration of government, favor maintenance of the status quo, at least until Wyoming has an opportunity to address these recently pled allegations," according to the state government's response.
But the plaintiffs responded on Wednesday saying the state conceded the Wyoming U.S. District Court is bound by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the Utah case known as Kitchen v. Hebert decided in June that declared the U.S. Constitution bars states from denying same-sex couples the fundamental right to marry, which causes the plaintiffs irreparable harm.
Defendants Urquidez and Fausset are responsible for determining eligibility for the benefits for state employees.
And Mead has directed the attorney general, appointed by the governor, to defend an unconstitutional law, according to the plaintiffs' response.
"The Tenth Circuit has issued mandates that 'states may not, consistent with the United States Constitution, prohibit same-sex marriages,'" according to the plaintiffs' response.
After the hearing, Jeran Artery, the chairman of the gay rights group Wyoming Equality, said he's optimistic Skavdahl will rule in the plaintiffs' favor.
"It's very exciting to be here today as the Wyoming history books are being rewritten," Artery said. "And I believe today we are one step closer to truly becoming the Equality State."