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LGBT rights in Wyoming

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Map of USA WY.svg
StatusLegal since 1977
Gender identityState requires sex reassignment surgery to alter sex on birth certificate
Discrimination protectionsNone statewide (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsSame-sex marriage since 2014

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of Wyoming may face some legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Same-sex sexual activity has been legal in Wyoming since 1977, and same-sex marriage was legalized in the state in October 2014. Wyoming law does not address discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, though the cities of Jackson and Laramie have enacted ordinances outlawing such discrimination.

Wyoming attracted international notoriety after the death of Matthew Shepard in 1998. In 2009, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was passed by Congress expanding the federal definition of hate crimes to include among others sexual orientation and gender identity. According to media outlets, his murder has resulted in "a shift in American culture" toward LGBT rights.[2] A 2017 poll found a majority of Wyoming residents in favor of same-sex marriage and an anti-discrimination law covering LGBT people.[3]


The Arapaho, who now live on the Wind River Indian Reservation, recognize male-bodied individuals who act, behave and live as women, referred to as haxu'xan. The haxu'xan, like women, are traditionally in charge of food preparation and dressing hides to make clothing and bedding. They form a "third gender" in Arapaho society, and can even marry men. The Arapaho believe their gender is "a supernatural gift from birds and animals".[4]

At its creation in 1868, the Wyoming Territory adopted all its laws from the Dakota Territory. This included a penalty of life imprisonment for sodomy. Amendments in 1890 made fellatio and mutual masturbation with a partner younger than 21 years of age, whether heterosexual or homosexual, criminal offenses. The penalty for sodomy was changed to a maximum of five years' imprisonment. In 1951, a psychopathic offender law was enacted, under which those convicted of sodomy could be "mentally examined".[5]

Despite this, Wyoming is the only U.S. state that has no published sodomy cases.[5]

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Wyoming decriminalized consensual sodomy in February 1977.[6] The age of consent for all consensual sexual activity is 17.[7]

Initially, the repeal of the sodomy law did not affect the common-law crimes reception statute, thus leaving anal intercourse an indictable offence. This was abrogated in 1982.[5]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]


Wyoming has recognized same-sex marriage since October 21, 2014, following the decision of state officials not to appeal a federal court decision that found the state's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.[8] Wyoming previously recognized the legal relationships of same-sex couples only for the purpose of divorce. It had prohibited same-sex marriage by statute since 1977 and had enacted a more explicit ban in 2003.

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead said that the state would continue to defend its ban despite action by the U.S. Supreme Court on October 6, 2014, which left standing as binding precedent on courts in Wyoming rulings of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals that found bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.[9] In the case of Guzzo v. Mead, U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl ruled for the plaintiffs challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage on October 17.[10] His ruling took effect on October 21 when state officials notified the court that they would not appeal his ruling.[11]

Domestic partnerships[edit]

On January 14, 2013, legislators filed a bill creating domestic partnerships to allow same-sex couples to "obtain the rights, responsibilities, protections and legal benefits provided in Wyoming for immediate family members." Legislators who favored same-sex marriage supported the legislative tactic of offering the alternatives.[12] Governor Matt Mead said he favored domestic partnerships. On January 28, a House committee approved the domestic partnership bill 7-2.[13] The full House rejected it, however, on January 30, 2013 in a 24-35 vote.[14]

Discrimination protections[edit]

Map of Wyoming counties and cities that have sexual orientation and/or gender identity anti–employment discrimination ordinances
  Sexual orientation and gender identity with anti–employment discrimination ordinance
  Sexual orientation in public employment

There are no state laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. On January 31, 2011, the state House rejected a bill banning such discrimination.[15] Likewise, on January 31, 2013, the state Senate rejected a similar bill by a vote of 15 to 13.[16]

At the start of the 2015 legislative session, a business coalition, Compete Wyoming, was formed to push for LGBT anti-discrimination laws.[17][18] On February 3, 2015, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved 6–1 a bill that would have prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill, SF 115, contained a religious exemption, unlike bills that failed in previous legislative sessions. On February 10, the full Senate approved the bill on a 24–6 vote.[19][20] On February 20, the bill was approved by House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee, by 6-2 margin.[21][22] On February 24, 2015, the House rejected the bill, in 26-33 vote.[23][24]

Jackson and Laramie have anti-discrimination ordinances that cover sexual orientation and gender identity. Other cities, including the state capital of Cheyenne, Casper and Gillette, prohibit city employment on the basis of sexual orientation only.[25]

Hate crime law[edit]

Wyoming does not have a hate crime law.[26][27] In 1999, following the murder of Matthew Shepard near Laramie, Wyoming, such legislation was "hotly debated." Proponents of such legislation since then have preferred the term "bias crime."[27]

Gender identity and expression[edit]

In order for transgender people to change their legal gender on their Wyoming birth certificates, they must undergo sex reassignment surgery, and following the procedure, write a letter to the Vital Statistics Services stating their wish to have their gender marker changed.[28]

Public opinion[edit]

A 2017 Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) opinion poll found that 62% of Wyoming residents supported same-sex marriage, while 30% opposed it and 8% were unsure. Additionally, 66% supported an anti-discrimination law covering sexual orientation and gender identity. 26% were opposed.[3]

Public opinion for LGBT anti-discrimination laws in Wyoming
Poll source Date(s)
Margin of
% support % opposition % no opinion
Public Religion Research Institute January 3-December 30, 2018 136 ? 61% 37% 2%
Public Religion Research Institute April 5-December 23, 2017 236 ? 66% 26% 8%
Public Religion Research Institute April 29, 2015-January 7, 2016 213 ? 66% 30% 4%

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1977)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 1977)
Anti-discrimination laws for sexual orientation No/Yes (Varies by jurisdiction)
Anti-discrimination laws for gender identity or expression No/Yes (Varies by jurisdiction)
Same-sex marriages Yes (Since 2014)
Recognition of same-sex couples Yes (Since 2014)
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2014)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2014)
Right to change legal gender Yes
LGBT people allowed to serve openly in the military Yes
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes[29]
Conversion therapy banned on minors No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No/Yes (1 year deferral period)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wyoming Adoption Laws and Policies
  2. ^ "Matthew Shepard: The legacy of a gay college student 20 years after his brutal murder". ABC News. October 5, 2018.
  3. ^ a b PRRI: American Values Atlas 2017
  4. ^ Sabine Lang, Men as Women, Women as Men ISBN 0292777957, 2010
  5. ^ a b c "The History of Sodomy Laws in the United States - Wyoming". Retrieved 2012-12-05.
  6. ^ William N. Eskridge, Dishonorable Passions: Sodomy Laws in America, 1861-2003 (NY: Penguin Group, 2008), 201n, available online, accessed April 10, 2011
  8. ^ Moen, Bob (October 21, 2014). "Wyoming Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage". ABC news. Associated Press. Retrieved October 21, 2014.
  9. ^ Hancock, Laura (October 6, 2014). "Mead says Supreme Court move has no impact on Wyoming's gay marriage case". Casper Star Tribune. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  10. ^ "Order". U.S. District Court for Wyoming. Retrieved October 17, 2014.
  11. ^ Moen, Bob (October 21, 2014). "Wyoming Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage". ABC news. Associated Press. Retrieved October 21, 2014.
  12. ^ Huelsmann, Kevin (January 15, 2013). "Lawmakers back gay marriage, union bills". Jackson Hole News and Guide. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  13. ^ Celock, John (January 29, 2013). "Wyoming Legislative Committee Rejects Gay Marriage, Passes Domestic Partnerships". Huffington Post. Retrieved August 19, 2014.
  14. ^ "Wyoming House defeats domestic partnership bill". Billings Gazette. January 30, 2013. Retrieved January 31, 2013.
  15. ^ "H.B. No. 0142". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  16. ^ Barron, Joan. "Wyoming Senate defeats gay discrimination bill,", 31 January 2013, accessed 1 February 2013.
  17. ^ "New coalition pushes anti-discrimination law for Wyoming". Star Tribune. January 8, 2015.
  18. ^ Compete Wyoming
  19. ^ "Wyoming Senate approves bill to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination". LGBTQ Nation. February 10, 2015.
  20. ^ SF 115
  21. ^ "Lawmaker kicked out of meeting as committee clears LGBT anti-discrimination bill". Casper Star-Tribune. February 20, 2015.
  22. ^ "Wyoming House panel advances bill to ban LGBT discrimination". LGBTQ Nation. February 20, 2015.
  23. ^ "Wyoming's "Anti-Discrimination" Bill Fails". KGWN-TV. February 24, 2015.
  24. ^ "Wyoming House shoots down LGBT anti‑discrimination bill". LGBTQ Nation. February 24, 2015.
  25. ^ MEI 2018: See Your City’s Score
  26. ^ "Wyoming Hate Crimes Law,", accessed 1 February 2013.
  27. ^ a b Rule, Juliette (October 5, 2003). "Bias-crime law a hard sell in Wyoming". Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Retrieved January 25, 2013.
  28. ^ Wyoming, National Center for Transgender Equality
  29. ^ Third Party Reproduction, adoption and co-parenting legislation in the United States