Sen. Lummis Condemned by Wyoming GOP for Same-Sex Marriage Vote

State party leaders passed a motion accusing Lummis of ‘ignoring the tenets of the Republican Party’

  • Published In: Politics
  • Last Updated: Feb 13, 2023

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) was condemned by the Wyoming Republican Party this weekend for her vote last year in support of a bill enshrining legal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages. (Photo via C-SPAN)

By Jacob Gardenswartz

Special to the Wyoming Truth

This story was updated as of 8:30 a.m. MST on Feb. 13.

Leaders of the Wyoming Republican Party voted this weekend to formally condemn U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) for her support late last year of a bill codifying protections for same-sex and interracial couples.

In a Saturday meeting of the Wyoming Republican State Central Committee in Thermopolis, officials approved the condemnation resolution, first passed by the Goshen County GOP Central Committee last month. In it, party leaders note that the Wyoming GOP platform “adheres to the ideal of marriage being between one man and one woman,” and as such they condemned Lummis for “ignoring the tenets of the Republican Party” and “placing her personal interests and beliefs above those of the constituents she serves.”

In November, Lummis voted in support of the Respect for Marriage Act, which enshrined legal protections for same-sex and interracial couples while seeking also to preserve individuals’ religious freedoms. The measure repealed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriages federally as the union between one man and one woman and denied same-sex couples federal benefits. Though that law was already made moot by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergfell v. Hodges ruling, the new measure prohibits states from not recognizing same-sex or interracial marriages performed elsewhere should the case be overturned.

Lummis was one of just 12 Republicans to break ranks and support the measure in the Senate. Sen. John Barrasso opposed it, though former Rep. Liz Cheney backed it in the House. “For the sake of our nation today and its survival, we do well by taking this step,” Lummis said in remarks on the Senate floor shortly before casting her ballot. “Not embracing or validating each other’s devoutly held views, but by the simple act of tolerating them.”

Lummis’ support for the measure, which came after she’d previously voiced opposition to same-sex marriages, immediately enraged many in Wyoming GOP leadership. In a mass email to supporters, the state party said the act “threatens religious liberties and is opposed to the Wyoming Republican Party Platform which was ADOPTED UNANIMOUSLY.”

Lummis responded with an open letter defending her position, arguing the bill adequately balanced individual and religious liberties by not requiring a state to grant marriages but simply recognize them. She also highlighted provisions in the bill intended to protect religious rights, ensuring nonprofit religious organizations would not be required to perform or provide goods for same-sex marriages, guaranteeing that such institutions would not lose their tax-exempt status by refusing to recognize gay unions and clarifying that the federal government isn’t required to recognize polygamous marriages.

“If we want the right to drive in other states or exercise our Second Amendment rights, we have to grant respect to other states’ decisions too—otherwise, the constitutional structure put in place by the Founders in 1787 will not work,” Lummis wrote. “That is the fundamental purpose of this legislation.”

But such explanations did little to quell the ire of Wyoming conservatives; state party leaders wrote in a public response that Lummis’ “profuse language obfuscates rather than clarifies the issues to be addressed in this poorly considered legislation.”  

In addition to the resolution passed by the Goshen County GOP condemning Lummis, Republican Party leaders in Natrona and Fremont counties tried to pass similar censure motions in recent weeks. Both were unsuccessful.

While the condemnation resolution has little material impact on Lummis’ Senate career, it could foretell trouble for her reelection bid in 2026. Cheney was similarly censured by state party leaders in 2021 shortly before party officials — including Lummis herself — helped recruit Rep. Harriet Hageman to challenge her for the GOP nomination.

In an interview with former President Donald Trump earlier this year, conservative media host Jeff Wallack said Lummis “really hurt herself here in Wyoming with conservatives” as a result of that vote. Trump, for his part, said in the interview he hears “little things like, maybe she said wrong statements,” but noted he nonetheless gets along with her “very well.”

Lummis’ chief of staff, Kristin Walker, pushed back against the condemnation vote in comments posted online late Sunday.

“When Senator Lummis was elected two years ago she received more votes than ANYONE in the states [sic] history has ever received on a ballot,” Walker wrote on Twitter. “More than Trump. More than ANY elected official in our state EVER. Seems pretty clear who actually represents WY Republicans.”

And in a statement to the Wyoming Truth early Monday, Lummis’ spokeswoman said the senator “stands by her vote for the Respect for Marriage Act due to its expansive protections of religious liberties as well as its adherence to the Wyoming and U.S. Constitution. She looks forward to continuing her work on behalf of the people of Wyoming.”

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