By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming Republican leaders are divided over concerns voiced by Democratic lawmakers that rights to contraceptive access and gay marriage are threatened by the Roe vs. Wade decision.
No Republican state legislator interviewed this week by Cowboy State Daily wanted to outlaw contraceptives. But they gave mixed responses on same-sex marriage.
“No, I don’t plan on outlawing condoms or even birth control,” said Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion to Friday’s landmark case declaring that abortion access is not a constitutionally protected right, wrote that rights now considered fundamental — including gay marriage, contraceptive access and private sex acts — may also face future scrutiny as fundamental rights.
Wyoming law does not recognize gay marriage in its marital definition, but the state allows same-sex marriage anyway, due to a federal court precedent handed down in 2014.
Reflecting on gay-marriage legislation specifically, Brown said he wouldn’t work to disallow it but added there are bound to be legislators who would, if it ever becomes a states-rights issue.
“There certainly would be a fringe that would believe that’s our responsibility as a Legislature, to legislate those types of things, but I will tell you I think there’s a vast, and I mean vast, majority that would come absolutely unglued if that were (disallowed) here in Wyoming,” said Brown.
Brown, along with former Rep. Tyler Lindholm, tried in the past to “actually get government out of marriage completely,” so that the practice would become only a social or religious construct, not a state civil union.
‘Protect Existing Marriages’
The current Wyoming Legislature probably would not support the idea of outlawing contraceptives, such as condoms and birth control, said Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, agreeing with Brown.
Case said he predicts that the Legislature would “support laws protecting gay marriage” as well, adding that he’d be among the supporters, and would back legislation to codify same-sex marriage if court precedents protecting it were overturned.
‘Traditional Family Values’
The Wyoming Legislature has a mixed representation from all walks of life, which makes its actions hard to predict, said Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette.
Like Case and Brown, Bear said he’s not about to outlaw contraceptives. He clarified that he supports criminalization of drugs used to cause abortions, since they are not the same as contraceptives.
Wyoming’s impending abortion ban also criminalizes the use of drugs to cause an abortion.
However, Bear added, he would decline as a legislator to recognize same-sex marriage in the state’s legal definition.
“I always promote traditional family values,” he continued. “Those are important for society.”
‘Can’t Predict the Future’
House Majority Floor Leader Rep. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, said it’s difficult to predict how he’ll react to any bill in particular, simply because some bills are poorly crafted, no matter how great their intent.
“Until you see what is decided by the Supreme Court on any of these issues and then what bills come before the Legislature, (you can’t) react to them,” said Sommers. “I can’t predict the future on any of that.
Sommers noted that he voted twice in the Legislature against recognizing same-sex marriage but said he couldn’t see himself voting to ban contraceptives.
“What is written in bills matters,” he said. “It’s not an issue until you see it.”
The Wyoming Democratic Caucus, that is, every Democratic delegate to the Wyoming Legislature, on Friday dispatched an impassioned statement condemning the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade. The caucus also criticized Thomas’ willingness to review in the future cases dealing with rights that are not listed in the Constitution but which have been considered fundamental by federal courts for years.
“This court has chosen to curtail that freedom that has existed for almost fifty years,” said the statement.
The group said Wyoming’s imminent abortion ban would be “devastating” and will “limit (women’s) ability to choose whether they fully participate in the workforce or are forced to be mothers by the state.”
In an apparent reference to Thomas’ concurring opinion, the group feared that Friday’s decision would “signal to… LGBTQ youth that you are not welcome here.”
Multiple Democratic lawmakers told Cowboy State Daily in their own interviews that looking forward, they fear and disagree with the possible impacts of Thomas’ concurring statement.