Since 2006, same-sex marriage has been banned in Wisconsin, in an amendment approved by 59 percent of the voters at the time. Wisconsin has only recently had bans on gay Marriage struck down as unconstitutional. In that time, it has found itself in the middle of what must be an incredibly and increasingly frustrating situation. While more than 500 couples have wed since the ruling in 8 days, legal issues have caused the very same judge who struck down the ban to stall the marriages, pending the results of the appeals case. The judge herself, US District Judge Barbara Crabb, granted the request of Van Hollen with some regret.
“After seeing the expressions of joy on the faces of so many newly wedded couples featured in media reports,” Judge Crabb said, ” I find it difficult to impose a stay on the event that is responsible for eliciting that emotion, even if the stay is only temporary. Same-sex couples have waited many years to receive equal treatment under the law, so it is understandable that they do not want to wait any longer. However, a federal district court is required to follow the guidance provided by the Supreme Court.”
Since Crabb never issued any instructions on how to follow through with the issuing of gay marriage licenses to the state technically, so legally it’s the right move. The clerks who issued the licenses were acting within the spirit of the ruling but not within the law. The clerks issuing licenses could even be charged with a crime.
Van Hollen, who requested the stay, reasoned: “County clerks do not have authority under Wisconsin law to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Judge Crabb’s stay makes this abundantly clear.”
Throw in the fact that some clerks and courthouses refused to issue the marriage licenses while most others didn’t. The confusion itself leads to an incredibly frustrating situation for clerks and couples alike. Unfortunately, the results are a lot of gay and lesbian couples whose rights to marry are stuck in limbo.
Carl Tobias, a constitutional law professor at the University of Richmond, put the situation in context, “That leaves Wisconsin couples married in the last week in legal limbo, like couples in Utah and Michigan who married after the bans were invalidated and before stays were issued.”
John Knight, an attorney for The American Civil Liberties Union, expressed disappointment in the decision, but is hopeful for quick resolution.
“…we will fight for a quick resolution on appeal and are confident that marriage will be a reality in Wisconsin very soon for lesbian and gay couples who have waited much too long already,” was written in an email statement.
Wisconsin is not alone in being stuck deciding its gay marriage laws. Thirteen other states have the issue idling in appeals. However, since last summer’s Supreme Court, ruling gay activists have powered through 15 lower court cases. Chances are at least higher that, very soon, all of this confusion will be buried in the sound of wedding bells.
BREAKING: Federal judge who struck down Wisconsin’s gay marriage ban orders temporary halt to marriages.
— The Associated Press (@AP) June 13, 2014
More: Judge rejects halt to Wisconsin gay marriages – @AP http://t.co/4sAJcIdwxV
— Breaking News (@BreakingNews) June 9, 2014
BREAKING: Federal judge denies Wisconsin attorney general’s request for a halt to same-sex marriages. #gaymarriage
— Green Bay Press-Gaz. (@gbpressgazette) June 9, 2014