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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 13 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 24
Marriages continue in Wisconsin - Wisconsin AG threatens to prosecute clerks who issue same-sex licenses
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Marriages continue in Wisconsin - Wisconsin AG threatens to prosecute clerks who issue same-sex licenses

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Gay and Lesbian couples continue to marry in Wisconsin after a federal judge struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriages, but Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is now threatening to prosecute county clerks who issue licenses to same-sex couples.

According to The Associated Press, 52 of Wisconsin's 72 counties are now issuing same-sex marriage licenses, with more than 500 couples already married.

Federal District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled on June 6 that Wisconsin's laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples were unconstitutional. On June 9 she turned down a petition from Van Holland, who is actively pursuing an appeal, to stay her decision till the Seventh Circuit Court rules on the case.

Wisconsin state officials initially said they would not accept marriage certificates from same-sex couples, but they backed down on June 10, and began recording Gay and Lesbian marriages.

Van Hollen, an ally of conservative Republican Governor Scott Walker, said the marriages were not lawful, and threatened to prosecute county clerks who issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

'You do have many people in Wisconsin basically taking the law into their own hands and there can be legal repercussions for that,' Van Hollen said.

'So, depending on who believes they're married under the law and who doesn't believe they're married under the law may cause them to get themselves in some legal problems that I think are going to take years for them and the courts to work out.'

Van Hollen added that he did not want to prosecute same-sex couples, but that county clerks risked that happening.

'That's going to be up to district attorneys, not me,' he said. 'There are penalties within our marriage code, within our statutes, and hopefully they're acting with full awareness of what's contained therein.'

Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell shrugged off the threat, adding that Van Hollen 'needs to call off the dogs and turn off the fire hoses.'

Dane County is the state's second most populous county, and contains the state capital of Madison. McDonell was one of the first county clerks to issue licenses to Gay and Lesbian couples after Crabb made her ruling.

While Van Hollen has carried the ball for anti-equality forces, Walker, who is running for reelection this year, has been more or less silent on the issue.

Judge Crabb set June 19 as the date for a further hearing on whether she should stay her original ruling.

She also asked the ACLU, which represented the plaintiffs in the case, for their recommendation on how to proceed. On June 9 ACLU replied with a petition to enjoin enforcement of the state's discriminatory marriage law permanently.

Besides asking Crabb for a stay, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has also filed a petition with the Seventh Circuit to stay her decision. The Circuit Court asked for additional briefs on the matter, but has not yet ruled on the request for a stay.

Crabb has refused to resolve the differences between counties where Gay and Lesbian couples can marry and those where they cannot. That was an issue for state courts to decide, she said. Although she struck down the marriage ban, she had given no orders whatsoever to state and local officials in Wisconsin, she explained.

'They did not act because I told them they could,' Crabb said of county officials. 'That hasn't been decided.'

At least one Wisconsin state judge believes the legal issue is already settled.

'Marriage is legal in the state of Wisconsin,' Dane County Circuit Court Judge Rhonda Lanford told AP. 'We'll marry as many people as we can.'

The judge reportedly has been marrying all comers since Crabb's June 6 decision.

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