Wisconsin judge denies request to halt gay weddings

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A federal judge in Wisconsin rejected a request Monday to temporarily put a halt to same-sex weddings in the state, allowing same-sex unions to continue for now, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb, who ruled Friday that Wisconsin's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, indicated that she is likely to grant a stay of her ruling in the next several days. But she will not do so until after a hearing she scheduled for June 19, when the two sides in the case can present arguments on the issue.

Lawyers for the state of Wisconsin on Monday morning filed an appeal and a motion to stay the decision, in part because Crabb did not provide guidance in her ruling as to whether same-sex marriages could immediately begin taking place. While the case plays out, many county clerks are declining to issue marriage licenses.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that the state's appeal and motion was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago.

"The district court's opinion and order has thus created a legal environment in which Wisconsin's county clerks are deciding on a county-by-county basis whether to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples immediately or wait for the district court to enter injunctive relief or rule on state defendants' motion to stay," lawyers for the state wrote.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said it made no sense to let marriages go forward when the courts are likely to put them back on hold, at least temporarily, and leave those couples in legal limbo.

The Journal-Sentinel has a list of which counties are offering marriage licenses to same-sex couples and which ones are not. The list indicates that couples can get licenses in 11 counties and cannot in 16 counties, with officials in Eau Claire County saying they have not made a final decision and are waiting on guidance from the state.

Earlier, the Wisconsin State Journal quoted Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Wisconsin, who said he believes the same-sex marriages that have taken place since Friday are legal.

In Dane County, 135 marriage licenses were issued in Dane County on Friday and Saturday. WISN in Milwaukee reported that 146 same-sex couples tied the knot in Milwaukee County in the same time period. Many of the couples said they wanted to take advantage of what could be a narrow window in which to tie the knot before Crabb’s decision could be put on hold.

“Too many people have waited too long for this and I’m not going to make them wait any longer,” said Joe Czarnezki, the Milwaukee County clerk.

The Green Bay Press Gazette reported that Brown County Clerk Sandy Juno said Friday she was not prepared to start issuing marriage licenses. She said she wanted guidance from state records officials on how to process such questions as naming a bride and groom on the license.

“Ultimately we’re waiting to what the state is recommending,” Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach said. “We want to make sure we’re following the law and doing it in an appropriate way.”

WLUK reported that at least three same-sex couples showed up at the Brown County courthouse in Green Bay on Monday morning, hoping to get a marriage license issued. The station reported that Outagamie County clerk in Appleton, Wisconsin has said that she will not issue same-sex marriage licenses. She, too, said she’s waiting for authorization from the state.

Wisconsin voters amended the state constitution in 2006 to ban gay marriage. Crabb declared the ban unconstitutional in a lawsuit the ACLU filed on behalf of eight gay couples.

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