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David Tyer, left, and Wesley Radtke of Sun Prairie, Wis., exchanged rings Friday as Judge Rhonda Lanford presided over their wedding on the steps of the City County Building in Madison.

John Hart • Wisconsin State Journal,

Shari Roll, center, and Renee Currie, right, of Madison, celebrate after getting married by officiant Mike Quito on the steps of the City-County Building in Madison, Wis., Friday, June 6, 2014. The couple have had a civil union for 10 years and have been together since 2003. A federal judge earlier Friday struck down the state's gay-marriage ban.

Amber Arnold, Associated Press - Ap

Same-sex couples congregate outside the Dane County Clerk's office in Madison, Wis., as they wait to file paperwork to get married Friday, June 6, 2014. Earlier in the day, a federal judge overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriages.

John Hart, Associated Press - Ap

gay marriage legal battles

The latest: Seven couples filed a federal suit Friday challenging the constitutional prohibition on same-sex marriage in North Dakota.

Pending cases: Cases are now pending in all 31 states with gay marriage bans.

Back story: Judges have overturned several state bans since Supreme Court struck down part of federal Defense of Marriage Act last year.

Where it’s legal: Gay couples can wed in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

where states stand

• Gay couples have the right to marry in 19 states and D.C.

• Cases are pending in all 31 states with gay marriage bans.

Judge allows gay marriage in Wisconsin

  • Article by: TODD RICHMOND and M.L. JOHNSON
  • Associated Press
  • June 6, 2014 - 11:36 PM

– Same-sex couples began getting married in Wisconsin on Friday after a federal judge struck down the state’s gay marriage ban and despite confusion over the effect of the ruling.

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. Judges were on hand at both courthouses to perform ceremonies. “I’m still up in the clouds!” Shari Roll said shortly after she married Renee Currie just a block from the State Capitol.

Court officials conducted the marriages even though Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said the ruling did not clear the way for weddings to begin and sought an emergency order in federal court to stop them. Van Hollen said confusion and uncertainty had resulted from the judge’s decision and the status quo must be preserved.

Wanda Brown and Phyllis Goldin of River Falls have been a couple for 40 years and were married in Canada 10 years ago.

That gave them rights equal to those of heterosexual couples ­— in Canada, but not Wisconsin.

“We knew when we returned to Wisconsin, we were strangers in the eyes of the law,” Goldin said.

So even though they’ve been well-known as a couple for decades in River Falls, they still regarded Friday’s ruling as transformational.

“It changes everything for us,” said Brown. “It enables us to live where we wish without feeling like we’re in exile — to not be second-class citizens.”

Brown, a 63-year-old business consultant, and Goldin, 72, a physician who practices in St. Paul, have recently been considering moving to the Twin Cities, where Minnesota’s marriage laws would offer financial and legal protections they feel an increasing need for as they get older. They may forget about it now.

‘I feel good about my state’

“We feel like we belong in River Falls,” Brown said. “It’s a university town. It’s rich intellectually and culturally. Our friends are all around us. A lot of us have friends who got married in Minnesota and decided not to return, because it would have no meaning.

“We believe marriage is a good thing, a conservative thing,” she added. “It’s stabilizing for society.”

Said Goldin: “I can’t really find the words to tell you how significant it is to have the recognition of our fellow citizens.”

Andrew Warner, a minister at Plymouth Church in Milwaukee, married partner Jay Edmundson, then performed a wedding for two members of his church, Christopher Martell and Mark Williams.

“I always felt like we were second-class citizens in not being able to get married,” Warner said. “And now I feel good about my state in a way I haven’t before.”

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.

Clerks were keeping their offices open until 9 p.m. in Madison and Milwaukee to issue marriage licenses. It wasn’t immediately known whether marriages were happening elsewhere in the state.

In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb declared the gay marriage ban unconstitutional. But she also created confusion by asking 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 similar. The ACLU sued in 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. Many of those rulings are being appealed.

‘This case is about liberty’

“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.”

Three of the couples who sued gathered at a bar in Milwaukee, where the gay festival PrideFest opened Friday. They celebrated with family and friends, who brought T-shirts with the message, “love wins.”

Garth Wangemann, 58, and Roy Badger, 56, said they are eager to be married — they have their clothes picked out — but OK with waiting a bit longer. “We all wanted the day to come where young people [can] now take it for granted, they can marry the person they love,” Wangemann said.

Staff writer Bill McAuliffe contributed to this report.

 

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