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Arnold & Porter Wins Case for Same-Gender Marriage in Wyoming

October 21, 2014

DENVER, October 21, 2014 --  A United States District Court judge in Wyoming recently granted a preliminary injunction to plaintiffs represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Arnold & Porter LLP and declared that state’s statute defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman unconstitutional.  Since the state’s governor has announced that he will not appeal the order, the firm’s clients -- and thousands of other gay and lesbian couples in Wyoming -- can be married starting today.

Tom Stoever and James Lyman of Arnold & Porter’s Denver office represent four lesbian or gay Wyoming couples in the case .  One of the couples has a valid marriage performed outside of Wyoming that the state refused to recognize because the couple were of the same gender.  The other three couples were denied marriage licenses in Wyoming because they were all same-gender couples.  As a result, these couples could not count on all the benefits that married couples take for granted, i.e., making health care decisions for each other, exercising spousal visitation rights in the hospital, receiving pension benefits and insurance coverage, inheriting property should a partner  die without a will, and making joint decisions about the welfare of children in their custody or under their care.

In a recent decision in Kitchen v. Herbert, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals found that marriage was a fundamental right protected by the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The Tenth Circuit went on to hold that no state may pass a law that infringes on that right.  On October 12, 2014, the United States Supreme Court denied the State of Utah’s petition for certiorari in Kitchen v. Herbert, making the holding in that case the law in the Tenth Circuit.

Immediately after the Supreme Court denied certiorari in Kitchen v. Herbert, the Arnold & Porter team, together with their co-counsel, filed their complaint   The next day, they filed a motion for a preliminary injunction and a hearing on that motion was held on October 16, 2014 before Judge Scott Skavdahl.

The next day, Judge Skavdahl entered his order granting a preliminary injunction.  Judge Skavdahl agreed with the Arnold & Porter team that Kitchen v. Herbert is the law of the Tenth Circuit, and that he was bound to follow it.  Judge Skavdahl noted that while judges prefer not to invalidate statutes enacted by legislative bodies, “that ship had sailed” with respect to the Wyoming statute.