Lummis vote spurs censure talk; two GOP lawmakers push attempt following vote on gay marriage
January 12, 2023
CASPER — Following Sen. Cynthia Lummis’ unexpected vote to enshrine federal recognition of same-sex marriage, some in Wyoming’s Republican Party want to try to censure her.
Casper Republican Rep.-elect Jeanette Ward made a motion at the Natrona County Republican Party Central Committee meeting on Thursday to add discussion of Lummis’ potential censure to the agenda.
Another incoming freshman representative, Midwest Republican Bill Allemand, seconded her motion, but it ended up failing in a 57-89 vote.
Both Ward and Allemand were signatories of a November letter from the Wyoming Freedom Caucus asking Lummis to reverse her vote on the Respect for Marriage Act.
Ward said in an email to the Star-Tribune on Friday that the senator’s vote on the legislation is the only reason she wants to move toward censuring her.
The move isn’t all that surprising. Lummis drew anger from some in the Republican Party following her vote to pass the Respect for Marriage Act in November.
The bill, which President Joe Biden has since signed into law, guarantees federal recognition of same-sex and interracial marriage, as long as those marriages were performed in states where it’s legal. It also repealed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which recognized marriage as being between a man and a woman, and holds that states don’t have to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
Right now, same-sex and interracial marriage are protected by the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Obergefell v. Hodges and Loving v. Virginia, so states can’t make them illegal.
But given the historical reversal of Roe v. Wade over the summer, which protected abortion access for almost 50 years, some wanted to act early to enshrine same-sex and interracial marriage into law in the scenario that those Supreme Court decisions are overruled in the future.
Sen. John Barrasso voted against the bill, while former Rep. Liz Cheney joined Lummis in voting for it.
The day after Lummis’ initial vote to advance the legislation, the Wyoming GOP sent out an email newsletter denouncing the move.
“Yesterday’s vote on the ‘Respect for Marriage Act’ sadly saw our own Senator Lummis vote aye,” the newsletter said, adding that the act “threatens religious liberties” and goes against the Wyoming Republican Party platform.
The Wyoming Pastors Network also asked Lummis in a letter to “reverse course” on her votes. (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, on the other hand, came out in support of the legislation.)
Ironically, it was the very fact that the bill included an amendment that added protections for religious freedom that Lummis tried to emphasize when explaining why she decided to vote in favor of the bill.
The amendment exempts religious organizations from providing services, facilities or goods for a marriage that’s against the organization’s beliefs.
“As a Christian and a conservative, ensuring that the religious liberties of people in Wyoming are protected and that no institution would be forced to perform a ceremony that is not in line with their values is absolutely essential,” Lummis said in a statement following her initial vote.
It’s not clear at this point if other county parties will try to censure Lummis.
Park County GOP Chairman Martin Kimmet said his county party hasn’t moved to censure Lummis, though the county’s central committee has sent the senator a letter that Kimmet said asks for further explanation of her vote on the Respect for Marriage Act.
Kimmet said he preferred that the letter not be shared with the press right now, as he believes it should be up to Lummis whether or not she wants to make the letter public.
Party representatives from other counties that the Star-Tribune contacted said they hadn’t heard of any moves to censure Lummis at this point. But they still haven’t had their first central committee meetings of the year. At that time, someone could try to get the topic on the agenda.