OPINION: Not all desire an Equality State

By on October 21, 2014

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – By now the historic news has swept across Wyoming and made headlines around the world: this week same-sex couples here can legally marry their significant others.

Unsurprisingly, the court ruling is less contentious in Jackson Hole than the rest of Wyoming. In May, Jackson Town Council passed a non-discrimination ordinance that protects LGBT employees, adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the town’s policy manual. Zero folks voiced dissent during the council’s unanimous vote.

Jaren Artery is the chair of Wyoming Equality, an organization dedicated to securing rights for Wyoming’s LGBT community. On the heels of the council’s decision, Artery wrote, “We are hopeful that this will be the first step in opening up dialogue across the state and ultimately helping Wyoming live up to her name, ‘The Equality State.’” Artery is also a plaintiff in the landmark case that lifted the ban on same-sex marriage here.

It has been a long road towards a shot at equality in Wyoming and laws, as we all know, don’t necessarily sculpt personal perspectives. Many were not surprised when Wyoming Governor Matt Mead said the Supreme Court’s ruling would have no impact on the Equality State’s ban on same-sex marriage. Mead has long maintained the antiquated axiom that marriage is between a man and a woman.

But thanks to the case that the governor initially deemed irrelevant to Wyoming’s politics  – filed by Anne Guzzo and Bonnie Robinson of Laramie; Carl Oleson and Rob Johnston of Casper; Ivan Williams and Chuck Killion of Cheyenne; Brie Barth and Shelly Montgomery of Carpenter and Wyoming Equality – U.S. District Court Judge Scott W. Skavdahl granted an order Friday declaring the ban on same-sex marriage in Wyoming unconstitutional. After the Wyoming Attorney General advised that an appeal by Mead and the State of Wyoming would likely be unsuccessful, Mead, who said he wouldn’t appeal the ruling during a gubernatorial debate on Thursday night, confirmed his position in a press statement after Friday’s ruling. But he made sure to be clear about his standpoint on the matter: “This result is contrary to my beliefs and those of many others,” the governor stated. “As in all matters, I respect the role of the courts and the ruling of the Court.”

Sadly, Mead is correct. He is just one of many people in Wyoming to share these views. This week reporter Jake Nichols rattles off similar thoughts in his opinion column, Props and Disses, and a letter sent to the editor from Gillette Representative Troy Mader echoes his sentiments. Mader writes, “Check out the nations, empires and civilizations found in the trash heap of history. You will find the erosion of traditional marriage and the acceptance of sexual immorality has ALWAYS been a common denominator in their self-destruction.”

It’s no secret that The Planet provides its writers wide latitude in order to display the tapestry of opinions in this community, even when they are controversial. This week it seems especially important to balance these perspectives, so we’ve asked someone in the Jackson Hole LGBT community to offer his response to Nichols and others guided by similar tenets.

– Robyn Vincent, editor

Same-sex marriage opponents in Dark Ages

Well, as a man with a pee-pee who has sexual intercourse with other pee-pee-possessing men, I guess I’m left with no choice but to respond to this groan-inducing, childish article by Jake Nichols. Is his perspective a fresh new opinion? No. Does it in any way improve upon the argument against gay marriage? Absolutely not. Instead, it plays upon the homophobic conservative talking points that claim that allowing just any two humans to say “I do” in a convention hall somehow decimates the historically accurate, indisputable biblical laws of Tradition and Normal.

 Here’s the thing. I grew up in Jackson. I’ve been gay for as long I can remember, and in my 27 years on Earth, I’ve been forced to accept that people like Jake Nichols exist. Even within my circle of friends and family members. Everyone has a constitutional right to voice his or her opinion. I am not against Mr. Nichols speaking his mind. But, it’s important for gay marriage opponents to understand that “acknowledging homosexual partners,” is on the same level as me, as a gay man, acknowledging bigotry. Ultimately, I have to accept that it exists. It’s 100 percent legal! Do I agree with discriminating against certain fellow human beings on the grounds of who they fall in love with? I do not, but I have to get up every morning, breathe the same air as those folks, and carry on with my life. Accept and move on. It sounds simple, because it is simple.

As Mr. Nichols writes, “the true biblical intent of marriage is to create one from two.” This is a paraphrase of Mark 10:6-9, which goes on to say, “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” A study published January 2014 conducted by Jennifer Glass of the University of Texas at Austin uncovered that divorce rates are actually higher in religious conservative “red” states. This could just be coincidence, but Mr. Nichols also brought up the commonly accepted fact that 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. Yet, in the United States, divorce hits only 2 percent of all same sex marriages. Despite it’s ungodly heresy, divorce has never been as criminalized or condemned as gay marriage (one Christ-abiding Wyomingite I know is currently on her third marriage). It seems that with such a low divorce percentage, the Creator’s biblical intent is better served by same-sex partnerships.

You’re welcome, God with a capital G.

Let’s get to the issue that seems to have thrown Mr. Nichols off his rocker: the gay marriage epidemic has infiltrated the Equality State. My thought? It’s about effing time. Beginning in 1913, White Wyomingites were banned from marrying Blacks, Asians and Filipinos, until Wyoming’s anti-miscegenation law was repealed in 1965. In 1967, the Supreme Court case Loving vs. Virginia ruled that humans have “the freedom to marry,” legalizing interracial partnerships across the country. Many gay marriage opponents ignore the similarities between the interracial marriage and gay marriage movements, but the arguments from the 1960s unsurprisingly mimic the present day opposition.

Mr. Nichols’s side fears a future of incestuous relationships.

“The reason for banning these marriages stands on the same footing as the prohibition of polygamous marriage, or incestuous marriage, or the minimum age at which people may marry, and the prevention of the marriage of people who are mentally incompetent.” – Virginia Assistant Attorney General, R.D. McIlwaine III; Loving vs. Virginia, 1967.

Even bible references were used in interracial arguments, essentially claiming that merging separate races (be it religion or nationality) is against God’s will. Dive into Deuteronomy 32:8, Genesis 11:6-9, and Acts 17:26 if you must.

The argument against gay marriage is exhausting and repetitive. No one is the authority on “tradition.” It is not the responsibility of the LGBT community to counter every point the opposition makes, nor should I, as a homosexual American, feel pressured to prove to the world (or even Mr. Nichols) that I am a normal human being and that there is nothing artificial, unnatural, or satanic about my emotions and sexual impulses. It should be understood, whether you agree with Mr. Nichols’s opinion or not, that acceptance and tolerance are the only virtues that will pull the human race out of the dark ages of prudish religious head-shaking.

You guys! Gay marriage is legal in Wyoming! And I encourage my Wyoming LGBT friends to come out, hold hands, kiss in public, get married, adopt children and motivate folks like Mr. Nichols to embrace their dusty, narrow-minded immaturity, or to finally abandon it and join the year of our Lord, 2014.

– Andrew Munz

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