Wisconsin Gay-Marriage Ruling Put on Hold During Appeal

Wisconsin same-sex weddings were put on hold after a federal judge delayed her earlier ruling that the state’s prohibition of them was unconstitutional.

The order by U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb in Madison capped a week in which at least 400 marriage licenses were issued to gay couples in two counties that include Wisconsin’s biggest city, Milwaukee, and the capital, Madison. Crabb didn’t say how her ruling yesterday would affect those couples while the state appeals the decision.

The legal status of Wisconsin’s newly married gay couples is “uncertain,” said Dana Brueck, a spokeswoman for state Attorney General JB Van Hollen. “Licenses were issued without any legal authority.”

Van Hollen said yesterday in a statement he will appeal Crabb’s June 6 ruling that the state’s 2006 constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage and related laws violate the U.S. Constitution.

Gay marriage has been deemed legal by voters, lawmakers or judges in 26 states and the District of Columbia. Wisconsin is one of seven states where laws found to be unconstitutional by judges remain in effect during appeals. The others are Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan, Arkansas and Idaho.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver heard arguments on the Oklahoma and Utah cases in April, while the appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, held its hearing last month on the ruling in that state. The Supreme Court, if asked, might agree to review one or more of those cases.

In her 14-page order yesterday, Crabb said a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in January putting on hold a federal judge’s overturning of Utah’s ban forced her to do the same.

Joyful Expressions

“After seeing the expressions of joy on the faces of so many newly wedded couples featured in media reports, I find it difficult to impose a stay on the event that is responsible for eliciting that emotion,” Crabb wrote. “However, a federal district judge is required to follow the guidance provided by the Supreme Court.”

Deputy Milwaukee County Clerk George Christensen said said his county had issued 215 licenses to gay couples in the past week. Melanie Conklin, a spokeswoman for the county that includes Madison, said 192 licenses had been issued there as of June 11.

“Our research indicates that those marriages are valid,” John Knight, an lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a phone interview.

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

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