Gay couples are continuing to marry in Wisconsin after a federal judge delayed acting on the state attorney general’s request for her to halt the ceremonies.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb’s Friday decision declaring Wisconsin’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional has confused some county clerks because she did not order counties to begin issuing licenses.
Instead, Crabb asked the ACLU to tell her exactly what it wanted her to block in the gay marriage law. Crabb said Monday she’ll schedule a hearing once the ACLU responds.
She also said Monday that she would not act on Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s request for an emergency stay until after the ACLU responds. Van Hollen also has appealed Crabb’s decision to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and asked it for a stay.
Some county clerks have decided to begin issuing licenses anyway; others say they are waiting until they receive an order from the court or state.
Clerks in Milwaukee and Madison immediately began issuing licenses Friday, while clerks in Outagamie and Kenosha counties started issuing licenses Monday.
Court documents show that 283 licenses were issued over the weekend, and the Milwaukee County Clerk’s office said it had issued an additional 10 by early Monday morning.
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Hundreds of gay couples have married in Wisconsin since Friday, when a federal judge declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The ceremonies have largely been concentrated in Milwaukee and Madison, where county clerks kept their offices open Friday night and Saturday to issue licenses. Clerks in other counties began issuing licenses Monday.
There has been some confusion following U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb’s ruling because she did not order counties to issue marriage licenses. Instead, she asked the American Civil Liberties Union to submit a proposed order and said she would let both sides weigh in on that.
The ACLU said late Monday that it submitted its proposal, which would require state officials to let gay couples marry and to recognize gay marriages performed in other states.
Here are a few more things to know while the matter is being sorted out:
THE COUPLES WHO SUED HAVE NOT MARRIED. The ACLU filed its lawsuit in January on behalf of eight same-sex couples. Attorney Larry Dupuis said Monday that none had wed yet. He declined to say what legal advice they had been given.
COUPLES CAN GET LICENSES IN MORE THAN HALF THE STATE. County clerks in 42 of the state’s 72 counties told The Associated Press on Monday that they were issuing licenses. A few did not return phone calls. Some who were initially reluctant to act without an order from the court or Wisconsin Vital Records Office started accepting applications later in the day after seeing their peers do so and learning that Crabb had refused Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s request for an emergency order stopping the marriages.
HITTING THE ROAD WON’T HELP GET A LICENSE. Wisconsin requires residents to apply for marriage licenses in the county where they live. That means gay couples can’t just go to Milwaukee, Madison or another city where licenses are being issued to get one. Instead, they must wait until their county clerk acts. Clerks also have the option of waiving the state’s five-day waiting period to receive a marriage license, and some are doing that but others are not.
PUBLIC PRESSURE MAKES A DIFFERENCE. Outagamie County Clerk Lori O’Bright told gay couples Monday morning that she wouldn’t accept marriage license applications from them before hearing from a county attorney or Van Hollen. But the nearly 100 people gathered in her office refused to leave until they had filled out the paperwork. Outagamie County attorney Joe Guidote drew cheers from the crowd when he told them he had advised O’Bright to accept applications. The clerk also waived the waiting period for one couple because one partner’s mother was seriously ill.
BIRTH CERTIFICATES ARE NEEDED. A number of same-sex couples have been slowed in their quests for marriage licenses because they didn’t have all the needed documents. Wisconsin requires applicants to be at least 18 years old and prove it with a certified copy of their birth certificate. Applicants also have to show proof of residency, such as with a driver’s license, and provide a death or divorce certificate if they have been married previously. It’s a good idea to bring a Social Security card, too, because the clerks need that number.
— M.L. JOHNSON, Associated Press
The Dane County Clerk’s office said it did not have numbers from the weekend, but may have a count by Monday afternoon.
“The lack of a ruling on the contingent motion to stay and the subsequent actions of two county clerk defendants in immediately issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples has caused precisely the type of confusion and uncertainty that the State Defendants’ contingent motion sought to avoid,” Van Hollen’s motion reads.
According to the motion, Van Hollen believes that he is reasonably likely to succeed once Crabb’s decision is appealed. He also argued that judges in Michigan and Utah – who did not stay their orders after overturning gay marriage band – caused “chaos, confusion, uncertainty, and ultimately, further litigation” by their actions.
According to a news release attributed to Van Hollen, “Wisconsin’s marriage law is in full force and effect, and all state and local officials are under a continuing duty to follow Wisconsin’s marriage law unless and until the court enjoins that law.”
Crabb’s ruling on Friday makes Wisconsin the 27th state where same-sex couples can marry under law or where a judge has ruled they should be allowed to wed.
The Associated Press also contributed to this report.