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Wyoming Marriage Equality Probably Does Not Need A Jailhouse Lawyer

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By Melanie Nathan; 08-25-2010

Yesterday Lez Get Real published a story about the gay couple who, upon being denied a marriage license in their home state of Wyoming, filed a law suit in the Federal Court last week, challenging the constitutionality of the Wyoming law that declares marriage to be between male and female, only.

The couple from Cheyenne  David Shupe-Roderick, 25, and Ryan Dupree, 21, filed the lawsuit Aug. 13 after the Laramie County Clerk’s Office refused to issue them a marriage license.

In that article we questioned the competency of the Plaintiffs to self represent in a case as important as this, especially after reading the complaint, which we believed, would not adequately serve this lawsuit.

We contacted several LGBT legal minds and members of our LGBT community to get their feelings on the case. The general consensus was, not only should the couple NOT be self representing, but also should reconsider bringing their case at all, as the it may not be in the short term or long term interests of the national marriage equality debate and the current course of cases already before the Courts.

However In looking further into the matter, Lezgetreal uncovered information about the Plaintiff, David Shupe-Roderick; it appears that a perhaps seasoned Jailhouse lawyer may be taking on Wyoming marriage equality.

When I spoke yesterday to David Shupe-Roderick I was taken by his naivity – or so I thought!  I really believed that only someone naive and ill prepared for reality would take on such an endeavor.  However, Admittedly I was wrong.

There are two instances of Shupe-Roderick suing the Department of Corrections.  See

No. 07-8087 UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT 290 Fed. Appx. 164; 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 18588 August 25, 2008;  where Shupe moved to dismiss an appeal as it involved his claims alleging discussion of personal information by prison staff, gender-based discrimination, inadequate mental health care, inadequate medical care, and excessive use of force. The  motion to dismiss the case was granted.  Yes Shupe was in prison apparently, and represented himself – with court documents stating – COUNSEL: GERALD DAVID SHUPE, Jr. (State Prisoner: 23153), Plaintiff – Appellant, Pro se.

Then yet another case where Shupe- Roderick appears to be Plaintiff in a Child support case,  Shupe-Roderick v. Wyoming Child Support Services et al,   Case Number -2:2010cv00033, under cause- 42:1983 Civil Rights Act.

We also uncovered information indicating that on May 28, 2010 Gerald D. Shupe-Roderick, 25, was arrested by the Cheyenne Police Department, for felony filing of  false documentation

I sent an email with this links to Shupe today, but have yet to receive a response.  I went out on a limb yesterday, sending e-mail to my numerous contacts to see if anyone would be willing to provide legal assistance to the Plaintiffs in the hope of  avoiding a crush to marriage equality.

Now based on these facts, I must retract, noting that not only is it a bad idea to file in pro per, in a matter of this nature that impacts an entire minority population, or even to file at all in Wyoming at this time, but the emergence of these facts may serve to disqualify Mr Shupe, notwithstanding his right to equal treatment and remedies under the law, as the most appropriate face for marriage equality in Wyoming at this time.

While the motive of the couple may well be pure and their right to equal treatment profoundly innate, this lawsuit could pose a serious threat to marriage equality generally and it is my hope that this couple would re-consider how to approach their quest for equality – perhaps through withdrawal for the good of marriage equality in the long term.

As Shupe said, he did not expect the case to get this much attention and for that reason alone, he should consider consulting with the LGBT groups such as NCLR or LAMBDA Legal to check in and ascertain whether they should continue or not.

UPDATED: Since posting this Article last night, Lez Get Real has obtained the following comments from leaders in the LGBT Community:-

” Clearly this couple should have the freedom to marry, and every day they are denied marriage is unfair and wrong. But filing a lawsuit is only one way to challenge discrimination, and without careful groundwork and good timing, can actually set the cause and other couples back. The best way to maximize the chances of winning, in addition to smart and solid lawyering, is helping more people in Wyoming understand who their gay neighbors are, and why marriage matters, thereby creating a climate that encourages and empowers a court to do the right thing.”

Melanie Nathan

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7 Responses to Wyoming Marriage Equality Probably Does Not Need A Jailhouse Lawyer

  1. FAEN

    August 26, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Good god what are these guys thinking? The DOMA and Prop 8 cases have a much better chance of winning at SCOTUS. If this goes further I think it will just shoot us in the foot.

  2. T.H.

    August 26, 2010 at 7:54 am

    How do you know he hasn’t already contacted any other attorneys or legal groups? It seems quite possible that he already did, was told his case wasn’t a good idea, and filed it anyway.

    • Melanie Nathan

      August 26, 2010 at 10:09 am

      I spoke to him and he told me he had tried private attorneys who refused the case. He told me himself that he had not contacted ANY organizations. I am taking it from him. He may not have been honest about it, but I am taking it at face value.

  3. Henry Juhala

    August 26, 2010 at 4:18 am

    Melanie — First of all thanks for the effort to consider and even seek to find legal representation for this couple in Wyoming. I also appreciate you forwarding key information on to me, considering you don‘t know me. Unfortunately it does little to sway my initial reaction that someone needs to find capable quality representation for these two guys. Now I believe that even more.
    I guess that is the Jesus part of me coming out. By that I mean my friend Jesus who was the champion of the Publican and the sinner alike. Jesus, the friend of outcast harlots and outcast fishermen. Jesus. the friend of Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles alike. Whatever was there social and criminal past had little effect as to the dignity to which Jesus treated them.

    I am reminded of many of the examples that Boies and Olson cited as legal precedent in their case for gay marriage. Among them were two cases in particular that need to be pointed out. The first is the felon from Missouri who sued to be able to marry. Up to that point Missouri had laws on the books that prevented felons from marrying. First of all they were felons. The state felt it could control which rights felons could exercise and which they could not.

    The state’s reasoning was that the primary purpose for marriage was procreation, felons should not be able to marry. They could not have conjugal visits while in jail. Since no procreation could occur the state felt justified in denying felons the right to marry. Apparently the Supreme Court disagreed and ruled that since marriage is such a basic and fundamental right it should be guaranteed to ALL citizens. The fact that the gentleman was a felon in the eyes of the court and furthermore could not procreate had little weight with the court.

    The second case is from Wisconsin. Here scofflaw former spouses who were behind in their child support payments were denied being able to remarry. Child-scofflaws were automatically deemed criminals in the eyes of the state. They also abrogated their responsibility once as a spouse and father. But that held little weight with the court. Again they ruled that marriage is one of the most basic and fundamental rights under the 14th Amendment. As such they ruled that child-scofflaw former spouses had the same rights and access to marriage as all other citizens of the U.S.
    My point is this. I have no doubt in your sincerity. I think you feel you have the GLBT community at heart in your submitting this information to us and suggesting perhaps there are better opportunities out there more “worthy’ of the GLBT community to put their resources into. Or as you say it “as the most appropriate face for marriage equality in Wyoming at this time”. But, to that I profoundly disagree. There is no “appropriate face” for marriage equality”. Perhaps your way of thinking is precisely why so few gay couples have been represented by major GLBT rights groups and why so many DOMA laws, even though profoundly unconstitutional, have gone unchallenged in most states so far. . Most couples would not measure up to the kind of scrutiny you appear to want to put any couple with a desire for gay marriage through The courts themselves have told us in numerous cases that marriage is such a basic and fundamental right that a person’s particular past should hold little weight on whether they should be deemed worthy of marriage. I am sorry but I cannot possibly sit in judgment of this couple in the same manner you do. By the courts own standards this couple deserves the same opportunity in court as any other couple desiring to marry the person of their choice. In that regard I fully support them in this opportunity before the Wyoming court system.

    • Melanie Nathan

      August 26, 2010 at 10:26 am

      @Henry “My point is this. I have no doubt in your sincerity. I think you feel you have the GLBT community at heart in your submitting this information to us and suggesting perhaps there are better opportunities out there more “worthy’ of the GLBT community to put their resources into. Or as you say it “as the most appropriate face for marriage equality in Wyoming at this time”. But, to that I profoundly disagree. …” I appreciate your perspective. As you can see I have not judges their behavior or actions or even the past – merely reported the facts on that. However I am not defensive of my position. I guess being an advocate on the front line and a proponent of the quest for unity and strategy in obtaining the goal – I am at liberty to state the case for the LGBT community and that I believe our collective interest outweighs that of the individual. That is how I see it. I am not sure where you see that I sit in Judgment of the couple. I would say that I sit in Judgment for the collective interest.

  4. Jennifer White

    August 26, 2010 at 2:31 am

    Wow, seriously, they need to stop it. The right wing already tries to paint us as deviants and against society. This will only harm the movement. If Mel can find those cases so can any media person or hate group that wants to search. As unfair as it may seem, let people whose integrity cannot be questioned be the ones to have their cases in the media and in front of the courts. For the good of everyone.

    • Melanie Nathan

      August 26, 2010 at 2:34 am

      yes and also it may nit be good timing anyway because of other cases that will rise to SCOTUS with more chance of success.