UP to U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., for joining 11 other Republicans in voting to end debate and move forward with a final vote on the Respect for Marriage Act.
If approved by the Senate, the legislation would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which was passed when Bill Clinton was president. That federal law defined marriage as being between one woman and one man, which was the law of the land until the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
According to the Associated Press, “recent polling has found that more than two-thirds of the public supports same-sex unions.” Here in Wyoming, in 2017, 62% of residents supported legal protections for all married couples.
Sen. Lummis acknowledged that reality in a prepared statement after last week’s Senate vote:
“Marriage is a deeply personal issue, and I have listened carefully to individuals across Wyoming to hear their perspective on this matter. Ultimately, my decision to proceed on this bill was guided by two things – the Wyoming Constitution and ensuring religious liberties for all citizens and faith-based organizations were protected. Equality is enshrined in the Wyoming Constitution.”
If you haven’t been following the issue, you may be wondering, if the Supreme Court has already ruled in this matter, why is Congress addressing it now? After Roe v. Wade was overturned by the new conservative majority on the court, Justice Clarence Thomas indicated that other decisions could be overturned next.
The Respect for Marriage Act would require states to recognize both same-sex and interracial marriages that were legal where they were performed (no, the latter are not guaranteed protections in federal law). It gained the support of 47 House Republicans in July, and was recently supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which said that it supports rights for same-sex couples, even though it still considers these relationships to violate God’s commandments.
We agree with the Mormon Church, Sen. Lummis and others that regardless of whether you agree with same-sex relationships, this is a matter of basic human rights. All U.S. citizens should be entitled to the same legal protections, regardless of who they love. We’re glad to see Wyoming’s junior senator agree.
UP to the University of Wyoming for appointing its first full-time vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion.
Zebadiah Hall assumes his new role in Laramie on Dec. 22 after working most recently as the director of Student Disability Services at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He has a history of advocating for inclusivity throughout his career.
According to a UW news release, “As a vice president, Hall will be a member of the president’s cabinet and serve as the primary point of contact in coordinating with the Native American Affairs Advisory Council; overseeing UW’s Black 14 initiatives; developing a campus climate response team; and working with campus partners on many other efforts. Those include a search equity adviser program, employee networks and the Social Justice Research Center.”
At a time when some state lawmakers want to defund the Gender and Women’s Studies program at the state’s only four-year university, and LGBTQ+ people are being shot and killed in a night club in Colorado Springs, the addition of this position makes a lot of sense. We wish Mr. Hall much success in the post.
DOWN to members of the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Education Committee for failing to support a grant to fund the new Teacher Apprenticeship Initiative training program.
Officials from the Wyoming Department of Education and the Professional Teaching Standards Board created the program to provide an alternative path to the classroom for those who may not be able to afford or be well suited to obtaining a traditional four-year bachelor’s degree. If it is financially supported by the Legislature, the state would cover 100% of each apprentice’s salary the first year, then 25% less each year for the next three years. By year five, the local school district would cover 100% of the cost.
Three pilot school districts have been chosen – Laramie County School District 1, Teton County School District 1 and Fremont County School District 24.
Once again, lawmakers are standing in the way of helping the state recruit, train and retain K-12 educators at a time when teachers are leaving both the state and the profession due to lack of support. And as lawmakers prepare to consider stuffing hundreds of millions of dollars into savings, we don’t see how less than $3.8 million for the first 30 apprentices is too much to ask.
UP to the eight members of the Joint Education Committee who voted to support providing more than $11.5 million for mental health resources for K-12 students, and DOWN to the six who voted against it.
Proponents said local district administrators could apply for one competitive grant of up to $120,000 that would go toward mental health services, and would help the state collect data on student needs. Opponents said it wasn’t clear how the money would be spent or how success would be defined.
Testimony during the Nov. 15 committee hearing from Sheridan County School District 3 Superintendent Chase Christensen summarized the problem perfectly. When asked why he doesn’t have a school psychologist, social worker, nurse or resource officer on staff, he said it’s because he has had to use funds for these positions to hire teachers at a salary higher than the funding model provided.
Gov. Mark Gordon has included money in his supplemental budget proposal for mental health services, as well. But until lawmakers get into the schools to see what’s really happening, it may be like telling your employees they can’t have a raise, but they do get a pizza party instead.