April 5 | Lunch & Shepard Spotlight  | 11:30 - 1:15pm | Yellowstone Ballroom 

Abstract

This panel examines the legislative processes surrounding the introduction of HB 168, a bill granting legal recognition to domestic partnerships, and the bipartisan cooperation that enabled its progress. This session also discusses the history of the Wyoming LGBTQ advocacy and lobbying efforts and includes a comparative look at other states’ marriage equality laws.

Description

Recent events in the Wyoming State Legislature led many residents who support marriage equality and legal recognition of domestic partnerships to feel hopeful and optimistic. Though none of the proposed legislation was passed during this legislative session, the vote in the House remains the closest yet. House Bill 168 was a bipartisan effort to grant legal protections for individuals in relationships as yet unrecognized by state law.

Though not a true marriage equality bill (a marriage equality bill was introduced, but died in committee ), HB 168 would have allowed for legal protection under the law for unmarried partners, regardless of gender.  During this panel discussion, Representative Cathy Connolly, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, will discuss the process of introducing this crucial piece of legislation and the social and economic necessity of legitimizing the relationships of all Wyoming residents.

A supporter of HB 168, but with a perspective from the Republican side of the aisle, Representative Daniel Zwonitzer will speak to the value of this landmark legislation for everyone--regardless of sexual orientation, or political or religious affiliation. Representative Zwonitzer will also debunk some of the arguments used against providing legal rights for same-sex couples. Our third panelist, former UW Spectrum advisor Keith Reynolds, will focus on the history of LGBTQ advocacy in Wyoming. Mr. Reynolds will present the history and evolution of Spectrum, Queer Advocacy Network (QAN), and the history of the Wyoming equality movement. He will also outline the major events in Wyoming associated with gay rights. Jeran Artery, lobbyist from Wyoming Equality, will address the recent legislative events from his unique vantage point as an active member of the movement, and discuss the history of Wyoming Equality’s work to effect legislative change for Wyoming’s LGBTQ community. Our fifth and final panelist, Rachael Dreyer, archivist at the American Heritage Center, will provide a brief comparative study of marriage rights amendments and legislation in other U.S. states and will examine the routes to equality that have proved effective there. Ten minutes at the end of the session has been reserved for a question and answer period.

Presenters

Rachael Dreyer is a transplant from Oregon, Iowa, and most recently Michigan, and is a reference archivist at the American Heritage Center.  She holds an M.S.I. from the University of Michigan's School of Information.  
Keith Reynolds is a Wyoming native and has a Master’s degree in history from the University of Wyoming.  He works as an archival specialist at the American Heritage Center and advised Spectrum (the original LGBTQ student group at U.W.) for a number of years.
Cathy Connolly is the Democratic Representative in the Wyoming State Legislature for House District 13.  She received both her J.D. and her Ph.D. from the State University of New York -- Buffalo.  
Daniel Zwonitzer is the Republican Representative in the Wyoming State Legislature for House District 43.  He is a 2002 graduate of Georgetown University and a member of Cheyenne East High School's class of 1998.  
Jeran ArteryChairman and lobbyist for Wyoming Equality. Wyoming largest LGBT organization.