Nearly 500 same-sex couples married in Wisconsin
MADISON — Gay marriages were still being allowed in more than two-thirds of Wisconsin counties on Wednesday, even as those defending the state’s ban were proceeding with legal action that could result in courts ordering the marriages to stop.
Here’s a look at where the legal fight and related issues stand:
HOW MANY GAY COUPLES HAVE MARRIED?
As of midday Wednesday, 483 same-sex marriage licenses had been issued statewide since Friday, based on Associated Press survey of all 72 county clerks. Fifty-two counties were issuing licenses, up from 49 on Tuesday.
About 76 percent of all licenses issued, 368, were in Milwaukee County and Dane County, which is home to the state capital, Madison.
Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said he has advised couples to marry quickly because a court order putting the marriages on hold during the appeal is expected.
ARE THE MARRIAGES LEGAL?
The Wisconsin Vital Records Office started processing marriage licenses on Wednesday that had been issued by county clerks, after receiving guidance from Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s office that it could move ahead. The office had been holding the licenses.
“It’s incumbent upon them to fulfill their administrative duties and that’s what they’re going to do in this case,” said Jocelyn Webster, a spokeswoman for Gov. Scott Walker. “They are now processing the licenses.”
But Wisconsin Department of Health Services spokeswoman Stephanie Smiley said it will be up to the couples to “make any necessary changes to their record” once there is a final court ruling. But if same-sex marriages are allowed to stand, no further action will be needed, Webster said.
The earlier decision to hold the licenses had raised questions about the legality of the marriages. Ultimately, the legality of the marriages will be decided in court.
WHAT’S GOING ON IN COURT?
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriages as unconstitutional on Friday, but did not issue an order telling the state how to implement her decision. She scheduled a Friday hearing on that issue.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a proposed order Monday that would require state officials to let gay couples marry and to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
Van Hollen, who is defending the law, objected Wednesday to the ACLU’s proposed order as being overly vague. Van Hollen asked Crabb to act quickly and enter a final ruling, and also reiterated his request that she put her ruling on hold pending his planned appeal.
Meanwhile, Van Hollen has asked the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to stop more licenses from being issued. Both sides had until 5 p.m. Wednesday to file arguments on whether the federal appeals court has the authority to act before Crabb does.
Crabb could schedule a hearing to consider the ACLU’s proposed order, or just issue an order based on arguments submitted by both sides.
The 7th Circuit also is expected to decide soon whether it can take up Van Hollen’s request to stop the marriages.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO RESOLVE THIS?
A final ruling on Wisconsin’s case is likely months away.
Wisconsin is one of 13 states with gay marriage cases pending before appeals courts. Twelve of them are with six different federal appeals courts, and one in Arkansas is before a state appeals court.
The cases that are farthest along originated in Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia based on decisions issued in December, January and February. Federal appeals court judges have heard arguments in those cases and rulings are expected soon. Attorneys have said they expect the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in during its next session.
Associated Press writer Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.