Moral Low Ground

US Government

Same-Sex Couples Rush to Marry in Wisconsin After Federal Judge Rules Ban Unconstitutional

Hundreds of same-sex couples rushed to marry in Wisconsin’s largest cities over the weekend after a federal judge ruled the state’s voter-approved constitutional amendment banning gay marriage unconstitutional.

Same-sex couples married in Milwaukee and Madison on Saturday, a day after US District Judge Barbara Crabb issued her historic ruling in a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of eight couples, the Associated Press reports.

Rejecting the state’s assertion that “virtually all cultures through time” have recognized marriage “as the union of an opposite-sex couple,” Crabb wrote that:

As an official matter, defendants and their amici have overstated the argument. Throughout history, the most ‘traditional’ form of marriage has not been between one man and one woman, but between one man and multiple women, which presumably is not a tradition that defendants and amici would like to continue.

Besides, wrote Crabb in her 88-page ruling, “tradition” alone is not sufficient justification for prohibiting same-sex marriage.

“Like moral disapproval, tradition alone provides nothing more than a state’s desire to prohibit particular conduct,” she wrote. Crabb cited Justice Antonin Scalia, who in his dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 case which struck down anti-sodomy laws as unconstitutional, wrote that “‘preserving the traditional institution of marriage’ is just a kinder way of describing the State’s moral disapproval of same-sex couples.”

There was a sense of urgency and uncertainty surrounding the ruling, since there are often serious setbacks when anti-gay marriage laws are overturned judicially as higher courts temporarily reinstate bans pending further litigation.

But ahead of PrideFest, the state’s largest LGBT celebration, the mood was jubilant in Milwaukee.

“It’s amazing,” Matt Schreck, 37, who with partner Jose Gutierrez became the first same-sex couple to marry in Milwaukee, told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “Now I can spend the rest of my life with my best friend.”

Same-sex couples in Madison, the state capital, were also also thrilled that they could finally do what straight couples who love each other have taken for granted for generations.

“I’m still high. I’m up there in the clouds,” Shari Roll, who with partner Renee Currie were the first same-sex couple to marry in Madison, told the Journal-Sentinel.

Nearly 60 percent of Wisconsin voters approved Referendum 1, a constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between one man and one woman, in 2006. Many of those who support denying marriage equality to same-sex couples lamented Crabb’s ruling.

“This is a very sad day for the citizens of this state who have had their will overruled by a single stroke of a judge’s pen,” Julaine Appling, president of the conservative, anti-gay Wisconsin Family Actiontold WLUK.

Although Crabb’s ruling makes Wisconsin the 15th consecutive state in which anti-gay marriage laws and amendments have been ruled unconstitutional, it is far from certain whether LGBT marriage equality will be permanent there.

On Monday, J.B. Van Hollen, Wisconsin’s Republican attorney general, filed a petition for a stay of Crabb’s ruling in the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, the Journal-Sentinel reports.

Also on Monday, the Associated Press reported clerks in some Wisconsin counties were denying same-sex couples marriage licenses, explaining that they were awaiting guidance from courts or state government officials on how to proceed before accepting applications.

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