So, today I was happy to sit as witness as the US District Court, District of Wyoming, heard the case brought by 4 same-sex couples and Wyoming Equality, asking the court to grant a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction so that marriage licences can be issued to same-sex couples in Wyoming.
One of the defendants was the Laramie County Clerk, whose interest in the case was solely to seek the court’s guidance because since the ruling of the 10th US Circuit Court was effectively upheld when the US Supreme Court declined to hear appeals brought by the states of Utah and Oklahoma, it has been unclear as to whether she should continue following the state law, which states that “[m]arriage is a civil contract between a male and a female person…”, or follow the decision of the 10th Circuit.
But Wyoming governor, Matt Mead, does not believe he needs to acknowledge that decision, and has instructed his Attorney General to continue defending the state law, claiming he does not “have the ability to say that I’m declaring something is unconstitutional.”
Technically he is right. As the head of the executive branch of the state government his job is to enforce the laws of the state of Wyoming.
There is a case pending in Wyoming court that is scheduled for December 15 that seeks to have that law declared unconstitutional, and Gov. Mead would like to reserve the right to see that case through.
But, effectively, the Wyoming law has already been declared unconstitutional and no longer can be enforced. It is Gov. Mead’s job now to acknowledge the ruling of the higher court and stop enforcing the law and stop defending it in court. To continue doing so will only serve to delay the inevitable.
But maybe that is what he wants.
He has already gone on record as saying that same-sex marriage goes against his religious beliefs. But if he takes his job as governor seriously, he knows that his personal religious beliefs are not relevant in civil matters. The Wyoming law is in violation of the US Constitution. Therefore he must stop defending it, regardless of how he feels about it.
But I think it is more than that. The election is less than a month away. I think he would very much like to believe that if he can keep defending the law until the hearing in December then he can say that he stood his ground and fought the good fight or whatever other stupid cowboy euphemism would work to rally his conservative base. He knows that as long as he is seen as struggling against the Federal Government, that makes him more electable in Liberpublican Wyoming.
I can hardly imagine that Gov. Mead or his Attorney General has found the magical defense that no other state has found that will stymie the courts and make them see things their way. So I can’t think of any motivation other than the political one that would make him waste taxpayers time and money with this futile effort.
Watching the case unfold this morning proved to me that the Governor doesn’t have a leg to stand on. The Attorney General’s office has hardly given this topic any thought at all. Their main defense is that they would like more time to prepare to defend the law, saying that the US Supreme Court decision to deny the appeals only happened 10 days ago, even though the 10th Circuit made their ruling in June and they knew full well that decision would affect Wyoming. The defense attorney looked very nervous about his role today and gave the vibe that he was going through the motions only because it was his job, and looked as though he knew there was no way to win.
But despite the seemingly cut-and-dried case, the judge refrained from giving an immediate ruling and said he would provide his decision by 5pm Monday.
So we are on pins and needles here today.