On Friday, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb struck down Wisconsin's marriage discrimination amendment as unconstitutional. She did not stay her ruling, meaning that it went into effect immediately.
Officials in the state's two largest counties, Milwaukee and Dane, were ready to spring into action. They began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, staying open for extended hours on Friday and Saturday in order to accommodate as many as possible. They also waived the waiting period, meaning couples could marry right away. Most of the 283 same-sex couples who obtained licenses in Madison and Milwaukee over the weekend chose to do just that.
Although Judge Crabb did not stay her ruling striking down the marriage ban, she also did not issue an order directing the state to stop enforcing it and requiring county officials to begin issuing licenses, which leaves wiggle room for those who don't want to do so.
One such official is Lori O'Bright, the Republican County Clerk in Outagamie County. Five same-sex couples and nearly 150 LGBT equality advocates showed up this morning at her office in Appleton, hoping that she would comply with Judge Crabb's decision striking down the marriage ban. Instead, she flatly refused to issue them marriage licenses.
More information, including video of Lori O'Bright smugly turning away same-sex couples, is after the jump.
Video via Kathy Flores, Diversity Coordinator for the City of Apppleton:
"That's the way it is, folks." Lovely, right? The couples left flowers on O'Bright's desk in a form of peaceful protest, and a group of LGBT advocates -- including members of a local Unitarian Universalist congregation -- say they will remain in the clerk's office until marriage licenses are issued to same-sex couples.
Rock County, population 160,000 and home to Paul Ryan's hometown of Janesville, announced late yesterday that clerk Lori Stottler, a Democrat, will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples today in accordance with Judge Crabb's ruling. It's the third of Wisconsin's 72 counties to do so. Couples in Rock County seeking to get married should assemble the required documents, go immediately to the clerk's office (Rock County Courthouse; 51 South Main Street; Janesville), and obtain their license.
In Brown County -- home of Green Bay, the state's third-largest city -- Republican Clerk Sandy Juno (left) said Friday that she would not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the state tells her how same-sex spouses should fill out the license application, which currently specifies one spouse as the "bride" and the other as the "groom."
Several same-sex couples showed up at her offices this morning seeking licenses but were turned away. Juno professed sympathy, however, telling the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "This has been frustrating for (clerks), but I'm sure it's been a lot more frustrating for the people who want to get married. You want to make sure these couples have (the paperwork) they need, but it would be disingenuous of us to issue something that could turn out not to be legal."
However, as Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin -- which brought the suit overturning the ban -- points out, Juno's argument is fallacious, as the likelihood of Wisconsin same-sex marriages being subsequently invalidated is "very low":
"It would mean that a higher court -- the Court of Appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court -- would have to invalidate Judge Crabb's decision and order. I think the worst that could happen would be if somebody went down and got a marriage license today or Monday, even if it weren't legal according to the Circuit Court order, it will be by the time we have a decision."
In other words, Juno's concern may be disingenuous, and she may be stalling for time, trying to resist obeying Judge Crabb's decision in the hope that a stay will be issued before she has to allow any same-sex marriages to take place.
The Brown County Democratic Party issued a statement over the weekend applauding the arrival of marriage equality in Wisconsin:
For our great nation, one of our cherished founders- Thomas Jefferson- wrote these words that are at the heart of what we believe as Democrats: "...that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Today, we stand together with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and celebrate that in Wisconsin everyone has the right and the liberty to marry in their pursuit of happiness.
We are happy that we are seeing this progress in our society at last and will do everything in our power to protect the rights of all Americans under the law of our Constitution.
The Brown County Republican Party, of which Juno is a member, has not yet weighed in on the matter. Lisa Freiberg, Republican county clerk in Fond du Lac county, is also not issuing licenses. Officials in Racine, Ozaukee and Washington counties are doing the same, saying they're waiting for guidance from the state.
This just in: Judge Crabb has set a telephone hearing for 1:00 p.m. today on the state's emergency motion for a stay of her ruling. Same-sex couples in Dane, Milwaukee, and Rock Counties who desire to marry may wish to do so before that time, in the event that a stay is issued.
Early this morning, Green Bay's WBAY-TV interviewed the first couple standing in line for a marriage license in Brown County. Watch:
UPDATE, 10:35 a.m. EDT: Acting on advice from their lawyers, Outagamie County is now issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Watch:
They are not waiving the waiting period in Outagamie County, however, except in extenuating circumstances. (As though being forced to endure years of marriage discrimination wasn't enough...) Nonetheless, supporters of marriage equality are now flying the rainbow flag at the Outagamie County Administration Building:
Image via reporter Wendy Fleury, WFRV News.
UPDATE, 10:40 a.m. EDT: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Kenosha County is also issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Officials there "expect a busy day."
This makes five counties where same-sex couples can now marry: Dane, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Outagamie, and Rock.
UPDATE, 11:00 a.m. EDT: I just got off the phone with the Waukesha County Clerk's office. They are issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and, as of right now, they are waiving the waiting period as well. The cost for a marriage license in Waukesha County is $130 in cash. Waukesha County is the most blood-red Republican county in the state.
Dodge County is also issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The fee is $70 in cash. County Clerk Karen Gibson tells me that she is not granting any waivers of the waiting period, in the same way she would not grant waivers to opposite-sex couples. We're up to seven counties now: Dane, Dodge, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Outagamie, Rock, and Waukesha.
UPDATE, 11:15 a.m.: Brown County has finally relented as well and is issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The official I spoke to in clerk Sandy Juno's office says that plans are currently to issue the licenses only until 1:00 p.m., when the hearing takes place regarding the state's request for an emergency stay of Judge Crabb's ruling.
Brown County officials are waiving the waiting period, and same-sex marriages are happening right now:
Door County is issuing licenses to same-sex couples as well, but the official told me they are not granting waivers except for three reasons: 1.) Military deployment, 2.) Extreme illness, 3.) Out-of-state spouse/couple whose travel plans do not allow the five-day waiting period.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is keeping a list of the counties that are and aren't issuing licenses. Click here, refresh frequently.
UPDATE, 12:00 p.m. EDT: Fond du Lac County has relented and will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but will not waive the waiting period.