A federal judge has struck down
's same-sex marriage ban, although
there was confusion over when couples could begin getting married. Wisconsin
"Quite simply, this case is about liberty and equality, the two cornerstones of the rights protected by the United States Constitution," U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb wrote in her Friday ruling.
In her order, Crabb gave the plaintiffs until June 16 to submit a proposed injunction describing "in reasonable detail ... the act or acts restrained or required" and gave the state a week after that to reply.
clerk Scott McDonell began to issue
licenses at about Friday. One couple -- Shari Roll and Renee Currie -- had
already arrived at the clerk's office and were the first to get their license. Dane County
It feels good "to finally be accepted for just being us," Roll said.
After the couple received their license, they were married just outside of the
by Mike Quito. City-County Building
Numerous people were being deputized to issue marriage licenses Friday, and several judges were on hand to officiate.
Van Hollen late Friday filed an emergency motion aimed at stopping the marriages, arguing that the order should be put on hold pending appeal.
"In light of the decision of some county clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, I will be filing emergency motions in the federal courts to stay Judge Crabb’s order," Van Hollen said.
But Lester Pines, a prominent
attorney who supports marriage
rights, said the judge’s order as it stands makes it clear that clerks can
issue licenses immediately, even though no injunction has yet been issued. Madison
"She has made a finding, a declaration, that the law is unconstitutional," Pines said. "That means the law is void. That ruling that the law is void is effective today."
The American Civil Liberties Union had challenged the law on behalf of eight same-sex couples. The attorneys who filed the lawsuit, ACLU staff members and some of the plaintiffs held news conferences in
and Madison Friday afternoon to discuss the
Kristin Hansen, development director for the ACLU, joined some of the couples involved in the lawsuit on the
State Street steps of the state Capitol, where
she and others applauded the court's ruling. Standing in the bright sunshine,
she called it a beautiful day that had become an even "more beautiful
"We don't think that basic civil rights should be up to the voters," Hansen said. "We just don't think that the majority should vote on the civil rights of the minority."
Two of the eight couples who are plaintiffs in the suit appeared at the press conference.
"We're so excited to finally put this part of our relationship -- this unmarried part of our relationship -- to the side, to move forward," said Pam Kleiss, 49, of Madison, a secretary at UW Hospital.
She held hands with her partner, Salud Garcia, 51, a bakery worker, who thanked the ACLU for being brave enough to take on the case "when everyone else turned their backs and thought this case was unwinnable."
After the press conference, the couple said they were headed to the county clerk's office to get a marriage license, though they planned to hold off on the ceremony until a pastor at their church, Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ, was available.
"It would feel disloyal to not have them marry us," Garcia said.
The other plaintiff couple, also from
, said they were married in Madison seven years ago but became
unmarried in the eyes of Canada when they moved here. Wisconsin
"To have the state of Wisconsin finally recognize that we are married, have been married, and will always be married under the law feels fantastic, absolutely fantistic," said Keith Borden, 41, a yoga instructor. His husband, Johannes Wallmann, 39, is director of jazz studies at UW-Madison.
The ACLU closed the news conference by having the crowd sing "Going to the Chapel of Love" and signing a large thank you note to the couples involved in the lawsuit.
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said in a statement that the ban remains in effect and said he would appeal Crabb's ruling. He called the ruling a "setback."
“As Attorney General, I have an obligation to uphold
Wisconsin law and our Constitution," Van
Hollen said in a statement. "While today’s decision is a setback, we will
continue to defend the constitutionality of our traditional marriage laws and
the constitutional amendment, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters. I
He said he was encouraged by Crabb's decision not to issue an immediate injunction.
"We have seen the disruption to couples and families throughout the
when courts have first allowed
same-sex marriage only to have those marriages subsequently called into
question by another court," he said. "I anticipate the United States
Supreme Court will give finality to this issue in their next term." United States
A spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Scott Walker said, "It is correct for the Attorney General, on this or any other issue, to defend the constitution of the state of
, especially in a case where the people voted to amend
His Democratic challenger Mary Burke said, "Today is a great day for
and committed couples who love each
other across the state. Every loving couple should have the freedom to marry
whomever they choose, and the fact that this freedom is now available in Wisconsin is something we all can and should
be proud of." Wisconsin
In Wisconsin Dells, a cheer echoed through the hallway at the state Democratic convention, which was getting underway Friday night, as the news about the gay marriage ban being overturned was announced.
Party chairman Mike Tate, who ran the gay rights advocacy group Fair Wisconsin in 2006, began to tear up as he rushed to rewrite his convention speech scheduled for later Friday night.
"I knew that justice would prevail," Tate said. "It came earlier than I expected so it’s really a great day."
Cheers also went up in the office of OutReach, a community center in
for the LGBT (lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender) community when news of the decision came out,
executive director Steve Starkey said. Madison
"The reaction is celebratory," he said. "We've been fighting for a long time, and this is very exciting news."
He said he expected same-sex couples to begin calling the organization on what this means immediately for the availability of same-sex marriage in the state, and he was working on getting clarity himself on that issue, he said.
He said he was impressed with the strength and emotional power of Crabb's reasoning. "It's a very powerful statement," he said.
"Today’s decision out of
marks the twentieth consecutive
ruling by a federal or state judge since last year that a discriminatory state
marriage ban is unconstitutional," Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to
Marry, said in a statement. "Across the country, the courts agree: same-sex
couples and their families need the dignity of marriage, and anti-marriage laws
are indefensible. With over 70 marriage cases now making their way through the
courts, today's decision in Wisconsin underscores that all of Wisconsin is ready for the freedom to marry.
It's time now for the Supreme Court to bring resolution nationwide." America
"This case is not about whether marriages between same-sex couples are consistent or inconsistent with the teachings of a particular religion, whether such marriages are moral or immoral or whether they are something that should be encouraged or discouraged," Crabb wrote in her order. "It is not even about whether plaintiffs in this case are as capable as opposite-sex couples of maintaining a committed and loving relationship or raising a family together."
In her opinion, Crabb wrote about the central role marriage plays in American society.
"And perhaps more than any other endeavor, we view marriage as essential to the pursuit of happiness, one of the inalienable rights in our Declaration of Independence," she wrote. "Thus, by refusing to extend marriage to the plaintiffs in this case, defendants are not only withholding benefits such as tax credits and marital property rights, but also denying equal citizenship to plaintiffs."
She said state law violated the plaintiffs' "fundamental right to marry and their right to equal protection of laws under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."
Two of the plaintiffs, Kami Young and Karina Willes of
West Milwaukee, were legally married last year in and have a newborn daughter. But
because Young is the birth mother, she is the only one who is recognized as the
legal parent on the birth certificate. Minnesota
"Our daughter has two parents who love her dearly,” Willes said in a statement. "I am no less a mother to her than Kami is, and she deserves the security of having both of her parents legally recognized. Our daughter shouldn’t have second-class protections."
"We are tremendously happy that these loving and committed couples will now be able to access the security and recognition that only marriage provides," Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, said in a statement. "These discriminatory laws are falling around the country and it is only right that
Wisconsin move forward as well."
’s constitutional ban on marriage
for same-sex couples is a striking example of intentional discrimination
towards lesbians and gay men in Wisconsin ," said John Knight, staff
attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “The
marriage ban has sent a powerful message that same-sex couples are undeserving
of the dignity and important legal protections associated with marriage. Judge
Crabb’s decision that same-sex couples are equal under the law sends an
entirely different message -- one inviting and encouraging fair treatment and
respect for these couples." Wisconsin
Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action, which has sought to overturn the state's domestic partner registry for gay and lesbian couples, was furious with Friday's ruling.
"I think it's extremely disappointing," Appling said.
She said same-sex marriage supporters had taken the "chicken" way out by "running to the courts" rather than going to a vote by Wisconsinites.
"When did 'we the people' become 'I the judge?'" Appling said. "When did marriage between a man and a woman become unconstitutional?"
In her opinion, Crabb wrote that she would address the state's pending motion to stay an injunction until after materials on the proposed injunction are filed. She wrote that both sides could supplement what they've already submitted on the motion.
> The article above is reprinted from the Wisconsin State Journal and was written by Mary Spicuzza. State Journal reporters Matthew DeFour, Ed Treleven, Doug Erickson and Steven Verburg also contributed to this article.