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Van Hollen Appeals Decision On Wisconsin Gay Marriage

On Friday, June 6, Judge Barbara B. Crabb in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin ruled Wisconsin’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. Many County Clerks hurried to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, but Marinette County Clerk Kathy Brandt was not one of them. In a telephone interview on Tuesday, June 10, Brandt said she is holding off until Monday, June 16 to get more direction from the courts and from Atty. Gen. J. B. Van Hollen. She said she had one telephone inquiry following Friday’s ruling but no one came in to apply.

Van Hollen announced shortly after Crabb’s decision in the matter of Wolf, et al. v. Walker, et al was released that he will appeal to the United States Supreme Court. A bit later on Friday, in response to reports that some county clerks were already issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples, Van Hollen announced that he will be filing emergency motions in the federal courts to stay Judge Crabb’s order.

“As Attorney General, I have an obligation to uphold Wisconsin law and our Constitution,” Van Hollen wrote. “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 will appeal.”

 He went on, “Importantly, current law remains in force.  I am encouraged by the District Court’s refusal to issue an immediate injunction. We have seen the disruption to couples and families throughout the United States when courts have first allowed same-sex marriage only to have those marriages subsequently called into question by another court. I anticipate the United States Supreme Court will give finality to this issue in their next term.

“I will continue defend our Constitution and law in whatever forum is appropriate and I would hope my successor will fulfill this same oath and obligation,” he concluded.

As to his request to have Judge Crabb’s decision stayed, Van Hollen declared, “The United States Supreme Court, after a referral from Justice Sotomayor, stayed a lower court’s decision striking down Utah’s ban on same sex marriage. There is no reason to believe the Supreme Court would treat Wisconsin’s ban any differently.”

On Jan. 6, 2014 the Federal Court of Appeals in Utah’s Tenth Circuit granted a stay on the ruling and issued a permanent injunction pending final disposition of the appeal.

On Nov. 7, 2006, Wisconsin and Marinette County voters overwhelmingly approved a Constitutional ban on gay marriage. The vote was 12,192 in favor of the amendment and 4,554 opposed in Marinette County and statewide the margin was approved by a 59.43 percent margin, with 1,264,310 voters in favor and 862,924 opposed.

The amendment subsequently became part of the Wisconsin Constitution that Van Hollen has pledged to uphold. The Referendum question read: “Marriage. Shall Section 13 of Article XII of the Constitution be created to provide that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state and that a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state.”

She said wording of the amendment puts some doubt on legality of a Wisconsin provision for “domestic partnerships,” that allow some rights to same sex partners but is not a marriage.

The Brown County Clerk’s office issued marriage licenses after Crabb’s ruling was announced and several couples have gotten married. Other counties that had decided to issue licenses were Door, Florence, Fond du Lac, Manitowoc, Outagamie, and Waupaca. Some were enforcing the 5-day waiting period and others were not. Winnebago County had decided to start issuing licenses on Wednesday, June 11.

It is unclear what the status of those decisions will be in light of Van Hollen’s appeal.

Northeast Wisconsin counties in which clerks decided to wait for more direction from the state before issuing same sex marriage licenses include Marinette, Calumet, Green Lake, Kewaunee, Oconto and Shawano.


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