Same-sex Marriage In Wyoming Is Permanently Joined And Cannot Be Put Asunder
Same-sex marriage is now permanent in Wyoming, according to a federal court order filed Thursday.
In the order, U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl made permanent the previous preliminary injunction that blocks the enforcement of the Wyoming law and any other "law, policy or practice that excludes same-sex couples from marriage or that refuse to recognize the marriages of legally married same-sex couples."
Government officials who unlawfully refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples would open themselves to lawsuits and personal liability for monetary damages, Skavdahl added.
The ruling was posted late Thursday. By then, the offices for the attorneys for both sides had closed.
On Oct. 17, Skavdahl issued a preliminary injunction in the case known as Guzzo vs. Mead that Wyoming's definition of marriage was unconstitutional, as was the state's refusal to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples from elsewhere.
But he temporarily blocked implementation of his own decision because he wanted to allow the state the opportunity to appeal his decision.
That same day, Mead said in a gubernatorial debate that he would not appeal Skavdahl's decision to the Denver-based U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The following week, Skavdahl lifted his own stay on his decision. Dozens of couples lined up at county clerks offices around the state to legally tie the knot.
Thursday, Skavdahl wrote that both sides had agreed the preliminary injunction should be made permanent, but they also had disagreed in court filings on the form of the permanent injunction.
Guzzo and the other plaintiffs claimed on Nov. 17 that the state's proposal did not provide complete relief to their cause.
The state defendants responded on Dec. 8 that the plaintiffs' proposal required state defendants grant same-sex marriage licenses, which is beyond their responsibilities. That posed a problem because "State Defendants do not issue or regulate the issuance of marriage licenses."
Skavdahl took those written pleadings under advisement.
Thursday, he cited previous court cases upholding the the fundamental right of persons to marry someone of the same sex, because that right is protected by the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
He also wrote that laws prohibiting same-sex marriages or limiting marriages to opposite-sex couples, including statute 20-1-101, and laws that don't recognize the validity of same-sex marriages are unconstitutional. That law and other laws or practices that excludes same-sex couples from marrying violate the due process an equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
Likewise, the defendants and state employees are blocked from enforcing 20-1-101 or similar laws and policies.
Skavdahl wrote in a footnote that he's not convinced Mead and the other defendants have the authority to control county clerks because they are separately elected officials. Therefore, he can't grant this request of Guzzo and the other plaintiffs.
But in that same footnote, he wrote that any government official who refuses to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple or does not perform their official duties exposes themselves to legal action including lawsuits filed under the Civil Rights Act of 1871.
"Further, such an action would expose the government official to personal liability for money damages in an individual capacity, ... and the defense of qualified immunity likely would be unavailable to shield that official from suit," Skavdahl wrote.