Wisconsin judge puts same-sex marriages on hold
MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) — A federal judge on Friday put same-sex marriages in Wisconsin on hold, a week after she struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional, a move that allowed more than 500 couples to wed over the last eight days.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb’s ruling Friday means that gay marriages will end while the appeal from Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is pending. Couples who were in the middle of the five-day waiting period to get a license, which most counties waived, are caught in limbo.
Gay rights activists have won 15 consecutive lower court cases since a landmark Supreme Court ruling last summer, with Wisconsin being the latest. Wisconsin is among 13 states with gay marriage cases pending before appeals courts.
Van Hollen requested Crabb put her ruling on hold, arguing that allowing the marriages while the underlying case was pending created confusion about the legality of those marriages.
In her order, Crabb expressed mixed feelings.
“Same-sex couples have waited many years to receive equal treatment under the law, so it is understandable that they do not want to wait any longer,” Crabb said in her order. “However, a federal district court is required to follow the guidance provided by the Supreme Court.”
John Knight, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the law, called Crabb’s decision to put her order on hold disappointing.
“But we will fight for a quick resolution on appeal and are confident that marriage will be a reality in Wisconsin very soon for lesbian and gay couples who have waited much too long already,” he said in an email.
The ruling came exactly one week after Crabb declared the state’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. But Crabb didn’t issue any orders on how state officials were to implement her decision, and amid the uncertainty, nearly every Wisconsin county — 60 of 72 — issued licenses.
Crabb issued an order preventing clerks from denying same-sex couples marriage licenses, but then put that on hold as well as her earlier ruling striking down the law as unconstitutional.
Van Hollen said he was “very pleased” with the ruling.
“County clerks do not have authority under Wisconsin law to issue same-sex marriage licenses,” he said in a statement. “Judge Crabb’s stay makes this abundantly clear.”
Van Hollen said he will appeal her ruling striking down the law to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court.
Allen Rasmussen, 46, and Keith Kitsembel, 49, who have been together for 14 years, asked the Portage County clerk nine times since Monday to get a marriage license.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Kitsembel said after the ruling Friday. “I furthermore am very, very, very disappointed in our county clerk in Portage County. We had a small window of opportunity to get married, and she refused to grant us a license nine times in five days.”
As of midday Thursday, 555 same-sex couples had gotten married in the state, based on an Associated Press survey of all 72 counties.
Wisconsin’s constitutional amendment, approved by 59 percent of voters in 2006, outlawed gay marriage or anything substantially similar. The ACLU said the ban violated the constitutional rights of eight gay couples to equal protection and due process and Crabb agreed.
Associated Press writer Carrie Antlfinger contributed to this report from Milwaukee.