Same-Sex Marriages End in Wisconsin — For Now

By: Trudy Ring
6.13.2014

As expected, on Friday a federal judge halted same-sex marriages in Wisconsin while her ruling from last week striking down the state’s ban on such unions is appealed.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ordered the state to stop enforcing the ban, but she immediately put that order on hold while the appeals process plays out, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. “The judge gave no indication whether the hundreds of same-sex marriages already performed will hold up in court,” the paper reports, so these couples are in legal limbo.

A week ago, Crabb ruled that Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex unions violated the U.S. Constitution, but she issued no order on enforcement and offered no guidance to county clerks, who issue marriage licenses. That led 60 of the state’s counties to go ahead and issue licenses to gay and lesbian couples. As of noon yesterday, 555 same-sex couples had received marriage licenses in Wisconsin, according to the Journal Sentinel. Some counties imposed a waiting period between licensure and marriage, but some did not, so many couples have already wed.

“Those county clerks were essentially acting on their own when they decided to issue marriage licenses,” Crabb said today. “I never told them not to, but I never told them they could do it.”

In a hearing this afternoon before issuing her order, Crabb noted that stays have been placed on all rulings nullifying marriage bans if they’re being appealed, and that if she didn’t do so, a higher court would. “So far what the [U.S.] Supreme Court has done is indicate it will enter stays if the district court doesn’t,” she said. “I’m just at the bottom level of the system.”

Wisconsin attorney general J.B. Van Hollen told the Journal Sentinel Thursday that county clerks providing marriage licenses to same-sex couples could face criminal charges. He downplayed those comments today in a radio interview, saying prosecution, which is the purview of district attorneys, would be unlikely.

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