Federal judge strikes down Wisconsin's ban on gay marriage

MILWAUKEE Fri Jun 6, 2014 7:30pm EDT

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - A federal judge deemed Wisconsin's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional on Friday to the delight of gay couples who immediately began rushing to county offices to wed as word of the ruling spread.

The ruling marked the latest in a string of decisions by federal judges who have struck down gay marriage bans in a number of states, although the Wisconsin ruling sparked confusion over whether such marriages could now legally go ahead.

In two counties, officials said clerks were beginning to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Friday night, and in response Wisconsin's attorney general said he had filed emergency motions in the federal courts to stay the ruling.

In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb said that a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which Wisconsin adopted in 2006, violates gay couples' fundamental right to marry and their equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution.

"Quite simply, this case is about liberty and equality, the two cornerstones of the rights protected by the United States Constitution," Crabb wrote in the 88-page decision.

Milwaukee County's executive ordered the courthouse to remain open late on Friday to allow couples to marry. Officials said marriage licenses would also be handed out in Dane County, which includes the state capital, Madison.

"We will continue to defend the constitutionality of our traditional marriage laws and the constitutional amendment, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters," State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said in a statement.

Challenges to state bans on same-sex marriage gathered momentum last June when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down parts of the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act, ruling that legally married same-sex couples were eligible for federal benefits. Not including Wisconsin, same-sex marriage is now legal in 19 states plus the District of Columbia and the number of states could grow sharply if federal court rulings striking down bans in several states are upheld on appeal. The Wisconsin ruling came hours after seven same-sex couples filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn North Dakota's ban on same-sex marriage or the recognition of gay marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

North Dakota was the last state where a ban on same-sex marriage still in effect had not been challenged.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Sandra Maler)

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Comments (4)
REnninga wrote:
The dominoes continue to topple, as Americans are again reminded that our Republic is built and sustained on the premise that all men and women are created equal, and that Americans do not vote to subvert or deny equal rights and equal protections to others.

It is also gratifying that these Federal Courts decisions are causing the most virulent hateful and intolerant bigots in our society to reveal themselves, by their words and actions, and in so doing shame themselves in full view of average compassionate and tolerant Americans.

Jun 06, 2014 6:10pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Constantcy wrote:
Corporate Law involves only “fictions of law” which s what the same sex couples are. Everyone is made into a straw man by legal imperatives.
Do not look for living law among the dead.

Jun 06, 2014 8:12pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
wayner1 wrote:
Yes, Virginia,………there ARE bigots in Wisconsin and they are now left with this putrid, discriminatory language in their state constitution as a constant reminder!

Jun 07, 2014 9:31am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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