June 6, 2014 at 8:17 pm

Judge's ruling allows Wis. gay couples to get married

State attorney general plans to file motions to put order on hold

Supporters of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling which overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act carry a large rainbow flag during a parade around the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wis. on June 26, 2013. (John Hart / Wisconsin State Journal)

Madison, Wis.— Same-sex couples began getting married in Wisconsin on Friday within minutes of a federal judge’s striking down the state’s gay marriage ban and despite confusion over the effect of the ruling.

Clerks in Madison and Milwaukee started marrying same-sex couples Friday evening. They did so even though both Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and Chris Ahmuty, director of the Wisconsin chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the law in court, said the ruling did not clear the way for marriages to begin.

Van Hollen said that in light of clerks going ahead with marriages, he would file emergency motions in federal courts to put Friday’s order on hold. Van Hollen did not say when he would ask for the emergency order.

Renee Currie and Shari Roll, both of Madison, were first in line at the county courthouse in Madison and were married on the street just a block from the Capitol. In Milwaukee, about 75 people cheered as two men were married in the hallway outside the clerk’s office at the county courthouse.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said he would keep his courthouse open until 9 p.m. Friday so same-sex couples could get married.

“I have been waiting decades for this day to finally arrive and we won’t make loving couples wait longer than they want to get married,” Abele said.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb’s ruling late Friday declared the law unconstitutional. But the judge also asked the couples who sued to describe exactly what they wanted her to block in the law, then gave Van Hollen’s office a chance to respond. She said she would later decide whether to put her underlying decision on hold while it is appealed.

Van Hollen vowed to appeal.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit in February on behalf of four gay couples, then later expanded to eight, challenging Wisconsin’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.

The lawsuit alleged Wisconsin’s ban violates the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to equal protection and due process, asserting the prohibition deprives gay couples of the legal protections that married couples enjoy simply because of their gender.

Gay rights activists have won 15 consecutive lower court cases since a landmark Supreme Court ruling last summer, with Wisconsin being the latest. Many of those rulings are being appealed.

“Quite simply, this case is about liberty and equality, the two cornerstones of the rights protected by the United States Constitution,” Crabb wrote in the Wisconsin ruling.