Wisconsin's Gay-Marriage Ban Block Sought by ACLU

The American Civil Liberties Union is seeking to temporarily block Wisconsin’s gay marriage ban so same-sex couples can marry while the organization’s lawsuit challenging the law continues.

The ACLU asked U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb in Madison yesterday for a preliminary injunction, arguing it will probably win on the merits of the case and the ban causes irreparable harm to same-sex couples.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was sued Feb. 3 by four same-sex couples seeking the right to marry in the state and to overturn a law that threatens them with imprisonment if they wed in another state.

The statute makes it a criminal offense to go outside the state to “contract a marriage prohibited under the laws of Wisconsin.”

The complaint, filed by the ACLU, follows those by advocates seeking recognition for gay couples beyond the 17 states and District of Columbia where such marriages are allowed. Litigation is pending in states over similar prohibitions in Texas, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, Michigan, Utah and Oklahoma.

Moved Fight

Advocates of gay marriage moved the fight for recognition to the state level following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June that left standing an order ending California’s ban on same-sex marriage. A separate ruling struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that denied federal benefits to gay couples.

Dana Brueck, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Department of Justice, said today in an e-mail that “we’ll respond in court.” A hearing is set for March 27.

The ACLU claims the ban on gay marriages violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of due process and equal protection.

Sarah Karon, a spokeswoman for the ACLU in Wisconsin, said in a phone interview that four plaintiffs were added to the lawsuit, bringing the total to eight. Each of the plaintiffs have children and one is expecting to give birth in April.

The case is Wolf v. Walker, 3:14-cv-00064, U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin (Madison).

To contact the reporter on this story: Marie Rohde in federal court in Milwaukee at fmarierohde@gmail.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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