— From the Green Bay Press-Gazette
Two hundred eighty-three same sex couples obtained marriage licenses between Friday evening and Saturday afternoon in Wisconsin — 146 of them in Milwaukee, 137 in Madison, none in Green Bay, or any other county seat.
As Wisconsin’s third-largest county, Brown was unprepared to react to a federal judge ruling Friday afternoon that declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.
Instead of issuing marriage licenses, county officials said they were awaiting word from the state on how to handle the issue. That word never came.
So by mid-morning Monday, the Brown County Clerk’s Office started issuing licenses and waived the five-day waiting period for $25. County Clerk Sandy Juno said her staff would work through their lunch hours to register people.
Same-sex couples started getting married.
It was a nice recovery after a rocky start, but it leaves us wondering: Why all the confusion? Why weren’t the state and the counties prepared to act on a ruling they knew was coming on Friday? And why the hesitation?
If a judge rules the state’s one-man, one-woman law to be unconstitutional, it seems logical that marriage license could be issued to same-sex couples, too.
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen added to the confusion and the delays. He called Judge Barbara Crabb’s ruling a “setback” and vowed to appeal. On Monday afternoon, he said the law was “in full force and effect” despite Crabb’s refusal to grant a stay.
He could have advised county clerks to go ahead with issuing marriage licenses with the warning that the ruling could be overturned.
Instead, Van Hollen filed an emergency motion for a temporary stay with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals saying he didn’t want “to subject any citizen to the stress and legal uncertainty that will result, as it has in other jurisdictions, if they are permitted to immediately contract marriages pursuant to a district court decision that may soon be reversed on appeal.”
Apparently, Van Hollen wants to spare these couples the heartbreak of having a marriage license nullified in an appeal.
But in so doing, he would deny them the joy of getting married.
Why not let the couples decide if they want to go through with it? Why not let them decide if the delight of getting married outweighs any potential disappointment down the line instead of letting the state AG act as the final arbiter of hurt feelings?
If you witnessed any of the proceedings, pictures or videos from Monday, you saw same-sex couples who were overjoyed to get their licenses and get married. There were tears and hugs as they were able to do the very thing denied two consenting adults of the same sexual orientation.
In her ruling, Crabb wrote that “Wisconsin laws prohibiting marriage between same-sex couples interfere with plaintiffs’ right to marry, in violation of the due process clause, and discriminate against plaintiffs on the basis of sexual orientation, in violation of the equal protection clause.”
There will be rulings on this matter, but in the meantime, it appears more and more county clerks are granting licenses as Wisconsin joins the ranks of states without same-sex marriage bans, states where marriage licenses are granted to consenting adults regardless of their sexual orientation.