SPECIAL REPORT: Gay marriage law - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

SPECIAL REPORT: Gay marriage law


The issue of gay marriage in Wisconsin has been on a roller coaster for the last month. In one week hundreds of same sex marriage licenses were issued. The next, they were taken away.

So where do we stand now? Newsline 9 investigates.

On June 6th, marriage in Wisconsin changed. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled Wisconsin's ban on same sex marriage was unconstitutional. The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of eight same-sex couples who were denied marriages in the state. Within hours of the judge's decision, Milwaukee and Dane counties began issuing licenses and soon other counties joined in.

But, the decision was riddled with confusion. Judge Crabb did not tell county clerks to issue same-sex marriage licenses. But, she didn't tell them not to, either. That's something UW Stevens Point political science professor John Blakeman says was the biggest problem.

“I was surprised the federal judge wasn't a little more clear, frankly. That would have resolved a lot of the conflict at the most local level,” said Blakeman.

In the end, more than 550 marriage licenses were issued from 60 of Wisconsin's 72 counties in one week.

"Perhaps it's the beginning of history being made,” said Blakeman.

But, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen asked Judge Crabb to halt same-sex marriages. Almost a full week of same-sex couples tying the knot in the badger state, another ruling. The judge said those marriages had to stop.

So where do we stand? Are those couples who did get married still legally married in the state of Wisconsin? It depends on who you ask.

In a statement, Van Hollen said same-sex couples with marriage licenses in Wisconsin aren't legally married. County clerks we spoke with say they aren't sure where those marriages stand. Judge Crabb said nothing is official until the appeals process is over. A process, Blakeman says, that could take years.

"It's not going to happen right away,” said Blakeman. “In fact, I'd be surprised if the courts decides the case within a year."

Depending on that ruling, it could move all the way to U.S. Supreme Court.

“That would tack on at least two or three more years,” added Blakeman.

After days of confusion, hundreds of marriage licenses, and an array of emotions, Wisconsin's ban on same sex marriage is right back to where it started, at least for now.

17 states currently recognize same sex marriages. A dozen other, including Wisconsin, are waiting on the courts.

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