Gov. Matt Mead, the former top federal prosecutor in Wyoming, should know a thing or two about the U.S. and Wyoming Constitutions. But judging by his terrible track record on lawsuits against the feds for the past four years, it seems likely a first-year law student could make better decisions.
On Monday, Mead was in the minority among Republican governors whose states were impacted by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear appeals of five states’ bans on same-sex marriage.
By not taking the cases, the high court affirmed lower court rulings that state bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional. That means the ban in Wyoming, which is under the jurisdiction of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is covered by the Supreme Court’s decision, should be immediately lifted. The constitution and federal laws are the “supreme law of the land” and trump state laws that differ — it says so in the Sixth Amendment’s supremacy clause.
But while Mead has sworn to uphold the constitution, he has instead decided to uphold his own religious belief that gay marriage is wrong and should be banned.
In a statement, the governor Monday claimed the court’s decision has no impact on a state lawsuit filed against the state of Wyoming over its gay marriage ban, and that the case will be heard by the Laramie County District Court in December.
No impact? Is he serious, or just pandering once again to conservative voters in his re-election bid?
The 10th Circuit ruled that similar same-sex marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma violate the 14th Amendment. Mead’s decision to keep fighting to save the ban is a waste of money, time, and an unnecessary — and mean-spirited — burden to gays and lesbians who simply want the same rights as heterosexual couples to marry the person they love. The writing is on the wall — same-sex marriage will soon be legal in Wyoming, once Mead gets done drawing out the case for his maximum political benefit.
Of course, there shouldn’t be any political benefit to wantonly violating the U.S. Constitution, but Mead and many other Western Republicans have built their careers on fighting the federal government. In Mead’s case the positive results qualify as bizarre, since he keeps losing the court battles he insists Wyoming fight against the feds.
Mead’s first action as governor after he was sworn in was to join a lawsuit with two dozen states challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. As everyone knows, he lost.
The governor steadfastly defended the state’s new law severely limiting the powers of the elected superintendent of public instruction to run the Wyoming Department of Education. The Wyoming Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional and put Cindy Hill back in her duly elected office. It didn’t take a law degree to realize that case was a loser from the very beginning, but Mead refused to back down.
Most recently, Mead lost a lawsuit over one of his few first-term so-called “victories,” in which the feds finally agreed to remove wolves from endangered species protection and place them under the management of the state of Wyoming. Of course he’s appealing the decision to put them back under federal control, because not having a hunting season on wolves is seen as unthinkable in Mead’s administration.
Mead’s statement said the state’s attorney general “will continue to defend Wyoming’s constitution defining marriage between a man and a woman.”
There’s one problem with that — the constitution says no such thing. It’s state law that defines marriage as a civil contract between a man and a woman, not the state constitution.
James Lyman of Denver, the attorney for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Wyoming’s gay marriage ban, told the Casper Star-Tribune that Mead “appears to be unaware that the Wyoming Constitution does not define marriage between a man and a woman, so his statement … has no basis in the law.”
The attorney added, “It is unfortunate that the governor is choosing to ignore his oath of office, which requires him to ‘support, obey and defend the constitution of the United States,’ as well as the constitution of the state of Wyoming.”
Other state chief executives may not have been happy about what the Supreme Court did in not taking any gay marriage ban appeals, but most did the right thing and instructed officials to follow the law. Here’s a run-down on action in other states as reported by The Guardian:
Indiana — Gov. Mike Pence reaffirmed his commitment to “traditional marriage” but said the state will obey the Supreme Court’s decision. County clerks began issuing licenses to same-sex couples.
Oklahoma — Gov. Mary Fallin said the “will of the people has been overriden” and railed against the court for supposedly violating states’ rights. But Attorney General Scott Pruitt said, “The court’s decision is law,” and county clerks began to issue licenses.
Utah — The governor said he is “suprised and disappointed” about the decision, but state agencies have been urged to comply.
Virginia — Attorney General Mark Herring announced that same-sex marriages would be issued in the state. Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe called it “a historic and long overdue moment for our commonwealth and our country.”
West Virginia — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican, said he’s still trying to figure out how his state’s case will be affected.
Wisconsin — The state’s AG said attorneys in his office did an admirable job defending Wisconsin’s Marriage Protection Amendment, whether they agreed with it or not. Now, though, he said, “It is our obligation to comply with” the court’s decision.
Colorado — GOP Attorney General John Suthers said county clerks must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Kansas — No word from state officials, but the ACLU of Kansas and western Missouri plans to file a lawsuit asking a federal judge to block the Kansas law prohibiting gay marriage.
North Carolina — Attorney General Roy Cooper does not intend to file any further appeals or seek delays in following the high court’s decision.
South Carolina — Attorney General Alan Wilson has taken the same position as Mead — that a judge has not ruled on a lawsuit seeking to overturn the state’s gay marriage ban. A lawyer for the plaintiffs in that case said she hopes the state “will realize that money spent fighting the ban could be used in other ways.”
The same argument, of course, can be made about Wyoming’s considerable legal funding that’s been approved by lawmakers to fight all of Mead’s losing battles with the federal government. Think about how much more money he could spend — and the damage he could do — if he’s given a second term.