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Wisconsin prepares for same-sex marriage ruling

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The Associated Press reports the American Civil Liberties Union filed a brief to thwart an effort to delay court action that would strike down the state's gay marriage ban.

The ACLU sued on behalf of couples challenging Wisconsin's ban. The federal lawsuit argues the ban denies gay couples civil rights that other married couples enjoy. Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen asked the judge to stay any ruling striking down the ban. Van Hollen asked U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb to place any ruling on hold while he appeals the decision to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In a brief filed Friday, the ACLU argues Van Hollen hasn't shown he could win an appeal or that the state would suffer irreparable harm if a ruling erasing the ban takes effect.

It's been predicted that the ruling striking down Wisconsin's ban could come at any time. The Wisconsin State Journal reported that the state has been preparing for a wave of same-sex weddings.

In Madison, Dane County officials expect 200 to 300 couples to seek licenses in the first 48 hours. County Clerk Scott McDonell said he has plans to triple his office staff and to extend hours to handle as many couples as possible. McDonell said he has talked with judges and court commissioners about being available to officiate at ceremonies.

"As I get the word, it's first come, first served," McDonell said. "If somebody is elderly and it's hard for them to wait in line all day, we'll move them up. If the plaintiffs (from the lawsuit) show up, we'd probably help them to the front."

Change.org reports that there are almost 200,000 openly gay citizens living in Wisconsin.

WXOW in La Crosse reported that the Dells Bells Wedding Chapel (pictured) has already been serving same-sex couples.

"We've always offered commitment ceremonies, we just haven't been able to give them the civil rights associated with the marriage license," said Tara Joles, who owns Dells Bells with her husband. Now they hope that couples who've had commitment ceremonies will return to make it legal.

Billing itself as "The Midwest's #1 wedding destination," (which the Chapel of Love at the Mall of America might dispute) the Wisconsin Dells chapel's website said that it offers "an elegant setting, where you can invite your family and friends to witness your vows, without the stress of wedding debt." It seats 42, with "pew bows and altar arrangements," a minister, uplifting harp music, ivory silk florals and even a wedding coordinator.

Dells Bells added a new minister who will be available to officiate same-sex weddings in the Madison area.

Last year when gay marriage became legal in Minnesota, then-Mayor R.T. Rybak went on the road to Wisconsin and Illinois to promote a "Marry Me in Minneapolis" campaign to encourage marriage tourism in the city.

Gay and lesbian couples can wed in 18 states and the District of Columbia. Illinois is to join the list Sunday.

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