49 Wisconsin counties issue gay marriage licenses
MILWAUKEE — More county clerks in Wisconsin began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Tuesday, setting aside frustration with the lack of clear direction from the federal judge who declared the state's gay marriage ban unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, same-sex couples in counties that weren't issuing licenses said they felt disadvantaged given Wisconsin's requirement that residents who wish to wed apply in the counties where they live.
Hundreds of gay couples have married since U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb overturned the ban on Friday. At least 353 licenses have been issued in Milwaukee and Madison, the two cities where most ceremonies are taking place. By Tuesday, 49 county clerks said they would issue licenses to couples that wanted them. Some also were waiving the state's five-day waiting period so the couples could marry before an expected hold is placed on Crabb's decision.
Other county clerks said they still wanted more definite direction from Crabb or the state. The judge caused confusion by declaring the ban unconstitutional but not providing an order telling the state how to implement her decision. She is mulling whether to adopt a proposed order from the American Civil Liberties union that would force clerks to issue licenses. The ACLU sued in January on behalf of eight couples.
Walworth County is among the counties not issuing licenses, but Rock County is.
Meanwhile, Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has appealed Crabb's decision and asked the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to order that licenses stop being issued. That court has given Van Hollen and the ACLU until 5 p.m. Wednesday for motions on whether it has the authority to act before Crabb does.
Patrick Bacher, 47, of Wausau, tried to get a license to marry his partner Monday in Marathon County but left "crestfallen" after being told Crabb's order wasn't complete and the county clerk's office was waiting for directions from the Wisconsin Vital Records Office, which records marriages. The office had said previously it wouldn't act without direction from Van Hollen.
"We just want to be treated like everybody else," Bacher said, adding that he and his friends have been calling clerks who aren't issuing licenses and demanding to know why.