by James Chilton
published October 22, 2014
Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Jennifer Mumaugh’s voice cracked with emotion as she began reciting her wedding vows in front of the Laramie County Courthouse on Tuesday morning.
Only minutes earlier, Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael had filed a notice in U.S. District Court. It said the state would not appeal a judge’s order overturning Wyoming’s ban on same-sex marriage.
That gave the Laramie County Clerk’s Office the green light to begin issuing marriage licenses.
Mumaugh had been waiting in the courthouse lobby with her partner, A.J. McDaniel, a female who identifies as a man, when county elections manager Debbie Valdez-Ortiz opened her door and announced the news.
“We’ll do the best we can, but be patient with us as we process,” Valdez-Ortiz said.
With that, Mumaugh and McDaniel stepped through the door and completed their license application. Friends and family cheered as the final stroke of the pen crossed the paper.
“I’ve been a ball of excitement all morning,” McDaniel said. “It meant a lot to me to be the first, just because we have a 4-month-old at home she gave birth to that I have no legal rights to. This is one step closer to me having legal rights to him, too.”
Their paperwork in hand, the two stepped outside. There, Unitarian Universalist the Rev. Audette Fulbright led Mumaugh through her vows.
“I, Jennifer, now take you, A.J., to be my husband,” Mumaugh said.
“To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy, to love and to cherish, as long as we both shall live.”
Across from her, with hands clasped in hers, McDaniel gazed into Mumaugh’s eyes with a look of anticipation and adoration, repeating those same vows.
Fulbright took it from there.
“By standing together in the presence of one another and the holy, and by public declaration of your intentions, you have done what neither church nor state can do,” Fulbright said.
“You have created a marriage. Having said that, as a duly authorized agent of both the church and state, it gives me great honor to pronounce that from this time forward, you, A.J., and you, Jennifer, are wed.”
With that, at 10:22 a.m., history was made. Wyoming had become the 32nd state in the nation to recognize same-sex marriage.
“It’s so friggin’ exciting; we’re so happy to make this legal,” Mumaugh said afterward. “It feels kind of surreal and almost unbelievable right now. I hope we’re just the first of many.”
Tuesday saw the conclusion of a long fight for marriage equality in Wyoming. That had been spearheaded by several advocacy groups, including Wyoming Equality and Wyoming United for Marriage.
The chairman of Wyoming Equality, Jeran Artery, was on hand for Tuesday’s historic ceremony, which he said was the first of what will likely be hundreds over the next year.
“(A study shows) there are over 700 same-sex couples here in Wyoming, and that 300 would get married in the first year,” he said.
“But what’s interesting is that study didn’t include any couples who might be coming to Wyoming for a destination wedding.
“And of course we have the Tetons and Yellowstone and so many other beautiful parts of the state. So I suspect the numbers will be much, much higher.”
Recent polling has shown many Wyomingites still are opposed to same-sex marriage. But Artery said he has heard little more than cursory comments from the opposition since last Friday’s court decision.
“Even people who are opposed to this for whatever reason aren’t saying a lot because the tide has turned so much,” he said. “There’s so much momentum behind this that they don’t want to speak out because it makes them look like they don’t want to look.
“I did see (state) Rep. Gerald Gay up in Casper say we’ve opened up a slippery slope and this opens the doors for all kinds of other things. That’s ridiculous. Whenever I hear that, I ask, ‘Why do you suppose those things haven’t happened in other states?'”
Gay, R-Casper, has been an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage.
In the last legislative session, he sponsored a bill to prohibit the state from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. And he has argued that the most recent court ruling would force a change in what is viewed as moral under the state’s Constitution.
But for those couples and friends gathered at the courthouse Tuesday, there was nothing to suggest what was happening was anything but good.
“Love is love, basically,” said Allison Befort, a friend and coworker of Mumaugh’s. “Relationships are relationships.
“It’s all the same, regardless. I’m just so excited for them, and I’m glad I got to see it.”
McDaniel’s and Mumaugh’s nuptials were followed shortly thereafter by Stacey Maloney and Tina Johnson, who also were wed by Fulbright.
And in the hours that followed, other same-sex couples married across the state.
Asked how she felt to be part of such a historic day, Fulbright was at a lack for words.
“I wouldn’t be able to describe how happy I’m feeling,” she said. “It’s pure joy. Pure joy.”