Focus on the Family loses latest heavy-handed battle to ban gay marriage

Following Focus on the Family’s ballot-box success on the anti-gay marriage measure Proposition 8 in California, the multi-million-dollar Christian publishing empire set it sights a bit closer to home — in Wyoming.

But the famously fickle Equality State Legislature rejected the “defense of marriage” measure floated by several Mormon lawmakers and backed by the newly formed WyWatch Family Institute, which is reportedly closely aligned with Focus and its affiliate the Colorado Family Institute.

The resolution would have affirmed Wyoming’s current one-man, one-woman marriage law and taken it a step farther by rejecting any recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states.

It barely squeaked out 25 votes of the 40 needed to get the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot and before voters, despite what the Billings Gazette reported as aggressive voter outreach tactics by Focus to influence lawmakers’ votes.

But being down doesn’t mean being out, according to the Casper Star-Tribune:

Becky Vandeberghe, chairwoman of WyWatch Family Institute, a Wyoming-based lobbying group that supports legislation that promotes the “sanctity of marriage” and other issues, called Friday’s vote a “grave injustice.”

“The elitist legislators decided not to accurately represent the people of Wyoming, and we certainly do hope that their constituents will take a look at their voting record and keep track of it for the election in 2010,” said Vandeberghe, who promised to push for similar legislation in the future.

GLBT activists hailed the vote as an important civil rights victory though state lawmakers were far more sanguine.

Wyoming Rep. Sue Wallis told the Star-Tribune, “Gov. Dave Freudenthal and former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson in speeches early in the session urged the Legislature to avoid hot-button social issues.

“The bill doesn’t belong in the Legislature when there is so much other work to do,” Wallis said.

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Wendy Norris

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