5 things to know about gay marriage in Wisconsin

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M. L. Johnson, Associated Press, Gazette Staff | June 10, 2014

MILWAUKEE  — Hundreds of gay couples have married in Wisconsin since Friday, when a federal judge declared the state's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

The ceremonies have largely been concentrated in Milwaukee and Madison, where county clerks kept their offices open Friday night and Saturday to issue licenses. Clerks in other counties began issuing licenses Monday.


Walworth County Clerk Kim Bushey said she will not issue same-sex marriage licenses until she has been advised by the county attorney and gets additional information from the state.

Bushey said she had received phone, email and in-person questions about same-sex marriage licenses.

There has been some confusion following U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb's ruling because she did not order counties to issue marriage licenses. Instead, she said she wanted the American Civil Liberties Union to tell her exactly what it wanted her to block in the gay marriage law and she would schedule a hearing after that.

Here are a few things to know while the matter is being sorted out:

THE COUPLES WHO SUED HAVE NOT MARRIED. The ACLU filed its lawsuit in January on behalf of eight same-sex couples. Attorney Larry Dupuis said Monday that none had wed yet. He declined to say what legal advice they had been given.

COUPLES CAN GET LICENSES IN MORE THAN HALF THE STATE. County clerks in 42 of the state's 72 counties told The Associated Press on Monday that they were issuing licenses. A few did not return phone calls. Some who were initially reluctant to act without an order from the court or Wisconsin Vital Records Office started accepting applications later in the day after seeing their peers do so and learning that Crabb had refused Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen's request for an emergency order stopping the marriages.

HITTING THE ROAD WON'T HELP GET A LICENSE. Wisconsin requires residents to apply for marriage licenses in the county where they live. That means gay couples can't just go to Milwaukee, Madison or another city where licenses are being issued to get one. Instead, they must wait until their county clerk acts. Clerks also have the option of waiving the state's five-day waiting period to receive a marriage license, and some are doing that but others are not.

PUBLIC PRESSURE MAKES A DIFFERENCE. Outagamie County Clerk Lori O'Bright told gay couples Monday morning that she wouldn't accept marriage license applications from them before hearing from a county attorney or Van Hollen. But the nearly 100 people gathered in her office refused to leave until they had filled out the paperwork. Outagamie County attorney Joe Guidote drew cheers from the crowd when he told them he had advised O'Bright to accept applications. The clerk also waived the waiting period for one couple because one partner's mother was seriously ill.

BIRTH CERTIFICATES ARE NEEDED. A number of same-sex couples have been slowed in their quests for marriage licenses because they didn't have all the needed documents. Wisconsin requires applicants to be at least 18 years old and prove it with a certified copy of their birth certificate. Applicants also have to show proof of residency, such as with a driver's license, and provide a death or divorce certificate if they have been married previously. It's a good idea to bring a Social Security card, too, because the clerks need that number.

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