Sunday, June 30, 2013

What do the gay marriage decisions portend for the conservative "rural heartland"? An analysis from Wyoming

Jack Healy reports for the New York Times today on the impact the Supreme Court's recent decisions on gay marriage might have in the "conservative heartland," and the story features the state of Wyoming, where state representative Cathy Connolly, an openly gay legislator, introduced a bill a few months ago to create domestic partnerships.  It advanced "further than anything like it in the history of this deep red state--sailing through committee and onto the floor of the full house."  Ultimately, however, the bill failed.  Like 36 other states, Wyoming limits marriage to a man and woman.

Healy's story features a gay couple who live in Caspar, Carl Oleson and Rob Johnston.  They have been together for 16 years but their relationship enjoys no protections.  He quotes Oleson,

You have to balance between so many things here.  I still have to be a little discreet.

Healy writes:
Being gay in Wyoming, known as the Equality State, has never been simple, and last week’s Supreme Court rulings, hailed as a victory for same-sex marriage, did little to change that. While many gay couples here cheered the decisions, they also said they woke up the next morning not feeling much more equal than they had the day before. 
* * *  
Wyoming has never been easy to pigeonhole when it comes to gay rights. Republicans dominate state and local politics, and support for gun rights, low taxes and small government runs as deep as groundwater. But so does a cowboy libertarian streak, residents say, rooted in ranches, homesteads and a notion of “You live your life, and I’ll live mine.”
Healy notes that Wyoming repealed its sodomy law in 1977, many years before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down such laws as unconstitutional.  Also, within the last decade, Casper had a 27-year-old gay mayor.

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