Gay Marriages on Hold

Last week’s report of Door County’s first same-sex marriage was premature.

Longtime partners Ann Rifenberg and Barb Zahn were the first to apply for a marriage license when U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled on June 6 that the same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, and they did so at the Door County Courthouse on the morning of June 9.

The couple immediately began making plans for a June 21 wedding, inviting family and friends to come for a beachside wedding. They expected to pick up the marriage license from Door County Clerk Jill Lau on Monday, June 16.

But their plans were unraveled on Friday, June 13, when Judge Crabb put her order from the previous week on hold after it was challenged by Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.

In that week, nearly 600 marriage licenses were issued to gay couples in 60 counties in the state.

“County clerks do not have authority under Wisconsin law to issue same-sex marriage licenses,” Van Hollen said in a statement after Crabb’s ruling. “Judge Crabb’s stay makes this abundantly clear.”

Crabb also issued a statement after her June 13 ruling that makes it abundantly clear that she did not want to go back on her original ruling, but was forced to by a Supreme Court.

“After seeing the expressions of joy on the faces of so many newly wedded couples featured in media reports, 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,” Crabb said in her order. “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.”

The Supreme Court guidance she referred to is the court’s intervention in Utah’s same-sex marriage ban. A federal judge struck down Utah’s ban on Dec. 20, 2013, and refused to issue a stay to allow an appeal.

The Utah Attorney General appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which granted a stay of the ruling on Jan. 6. That case is now with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

Between the two rules, more than 1,000 gay couples were married in Utah, but a separate ruling stayed recognition of those marriages.

Same-sex Marriage Here & Abroad

• Same-sex marriage is legal in 19 U.S states and the District of Columbia:  California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

• Same-sex marriage is banned by constitutional amendment or state law in:  Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wyoming.

• The laws banning same-sex marriage in Arkansas, Idaho, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin have been ruled unconstitutional. Those decisions have been stayed and are awaiting appeals. Judges in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee have issued limited rulings relating to same-sex marriages, but have not ruled that bans are unconstitutional.

• Sixteen countries allow same-sex marriage:  Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay. Like the United States, Mexico has regional or court-directed provisions enabling same-sex couples to share in the freedom to marry.