To say merely that Wyoming is a conservative state doesn't begin to capture it. Republicans hold nearly every elected office. Lawmakers squirrel away much of the revenue from the state's mineral wealth in a multi-billion-dollar savings account they can't touch without voters' OK. And gun ownership and hunting are as much a part of a cherished way of life as are ranching and rodeo. And so, it was remarkable in the legislative session that started in early January when a handful of Republicans supported two measures that might seem more at home in liberal California. While bills to permit same-sex civil unions and a ban on discrimination against gays made it out of committee, they went down in votes in the full House and Senate. That they even got that far was seen by many as a sign of how the shifting national attitude toward gay rights is affecting views in red states such as Wyoming. Some Republicans spoke of their decisions to co-sponsor the bills in personal terms, or in language rooted in the libertarian, government-stay-out-my-life ethic of the Cowboy State. "I think people are beginning to realize that this is just not a big deal. The sky doesn't fall," said Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, who signed on as a co-sponsor on the anti-discrimination bill. He said recent decisions on gay rights in the courts, the military and other states are bleeding into the state's consciousness.
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