Gay Couples Begin Getting Married in Wisconsin

Saturday, 07 Jun 2014 07:23 AM

 

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 When a federal judge struck down Wisconsin's gay marriage ban, pastor Andrew Warner was among those who headed to the courthouse to get a license so he could legally wed his longtime partner.

Then he turned to perform a wedding for two members of his Milwaukee church.

"I always felt like we were second-class citizens in not being able to get married," Warner said after marrying Jay Edmundson on Friday evening, despite confusion over the effect of a federal judge's ruling that declared Wisconsin's gay marriage ban unconstitutional. "And now I feel good about my state in a way I haven't before."

Clerks in Madison and Milwaukee began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples shortly after 5 p.m. Friday, a little over an hour after the judge released her ruling. More marriage licenses could be issued over the weekend, even though Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said the ruling did not clear the way for weddings to begin. Van Hollen has sought an emergency order in federal court to stop more marriage licenses from being issued.

In Milwaukee, Jose Fernando Gutierrez and Matthew Schreck married outside the county clerk's office in what was possibly the first gay marriage in the state. Gutierrez and Schreck then served as witnesses when Warner performed a ceremony for Christopher Martell and Mark Williams. All of the men attend Plymouth Church, where Warner is a minister.

Williams said he and Martell had assembled documents needed to get a license in anticipation of a ruling. They expected there to be a narrow window before a court halted the ceremonies.

"It definitely matters to us to have confidence that our relationship will be respected," Williams said.

In Madison, Shari Roll married Renee Currie just a block from the state Capitol.

"I'm still up in the clouds!" Roll said.

But Van Hollen said confusion and uncertainty had resulted from the judge's decision.

That's because U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb's ruling asked the couples who sued to describe exactly what they wanted her to block in the law. She said she would later decide whether to put her decision on hold while it is appealed.

Attorney Larry Dupuis, who represented the couples who sued, said the ACLU would respond to Crabb next week, and he expected her to then issue an order for the state to allow marriages.

Voters amended the Wisconsin Constitution in 2006 to outlaw gay marriage or anything substantially similar. The ACLU filed a lawsuit this February saying the ban violated the plaintiffs' constitutional rights to equal protection and due process. It said the eight couples named in the suit and others like them had been deprived of legal protections that married couples enjoy simply because of their gender.

Gay rights activists have won 15 consecutive lower court cases since a landmark Supreme Court ruling last summer, with Wisconsin being the latest. Many of those rulings are being appealed.

"This case is not about whether marriages between same-sex couples are consistent or inconsistent with the teachings of a particular religion, whether such marriages are moral or immoral or whether they are something that should be encouraged or discouraged," Crabb wrote in the Wisconsin ruling. "It is not even about whether the plaintiffs in this case are as capable as opposite-sex couples of maintaining a committed and loving relationship or raising a family together.

"Quite simply, this case is about liberty and equality, the two cornerstones of the rights protected by the United States Constitution."


© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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