Wyoming Attorney General Says Gay Marriages Can Begin On Tuesday

(Adds challenge to Mississippi gay marriage ban)

By Dan Whitcomb

Oct 20 (Reuters) - Gay marriages can begin in Wyoming on Tuesday after the state files a formal notice that it will not appeal a judge's order overturning a ban on same-sex matrimony, the state's attorney general said on Monday.

U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl struck down Wyoming's gay marriage ban last week, finding that it violated the U.S. Constitution, but stayed his ruling until Thursday, or sooner if the state indicated that it would not file an appeal.

"After reviewing the law and the judge's decision that binding precedent requires recognition of same-sex marriage, I have concluded that further legal process will result in delay but not a different result," Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael said in a statement.

Michael said that the nuptials can begin immediately after the state files a formal notice with the court stating that it would not seek that appeal. The move will bring to 32 the number of states that allow gay marriage.

"The Laramie County Clerk will be required to provide marriage licenses to otherwise qualified individuals without regard to whether the applicants are a same-sex couple," he said, adding that he anticipated that other counties would also provide marriage licenses to gay couples.

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead has said that while the decision went against his personal beliefs the state would not take up the appeal as such an effort would likely fail.

The U.S. Supreme Court surprised observers this month by leaving intact lower court rulings that struck down gay marriage in five states. A day later, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found gay marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada were unconstitutional.

On Monday, two same-sex couples filed a federal challenge to Mississippi's gay marriage ban, the first lawsuit of its kind in the mostly rural, Christian-conservative state.

Rebecca Bickett and her long-term partner Andrea Sanders want to get married in Mississippi, the lawsuit says, while Jocelyn Pritchett and her partner Carla Webb were wed in Maine and want their union recognized.

Defendants include Republican Governor Phil Bryant, Democratic state Attorney General Jim Hood, and Hinds County Circuit Clerk Barbara Dunn, who has denied gay couples' requests for marriage licenses.

"I took an oath to uphold the law and the constitution, and that's what I have to do," Dunn said in response to the lawsuit.

Bryant and Hood could not be reached for comment. (Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Emily Le Coz in Jackson, Mississippi; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Sandra Maler, Eric Walsh and Jim Loney)

Gay Marriage Signs

Popular in the Community