Saturday, June 07, 2014

Wisconsin's Same-Sex Marriage Ban Struck Down; Marriages Begin Ahead of Motion To Stay Court's Order

Yesterday in Wolf v. Walker, (WD WI, June 6, 2014), a Wisconsin federal district court, in an 88-page opinion, struck down Wisconsin's ban on same-sex marriage. Judge Barbara Crabb wrote in part:
I conclude that the Wisconsin laws prohibiting marriage between same-sex couples interfere with plaintiffs’ right to marry, in violation of the due process clause, and discriminate against plaintiffs on the basis of sexual orientation, in violation of the equal protection clause.... To decide this case in favor of plaintiffs, it is not necessary, as some have suggested, to “cast all those who cling to traditional beliefs about the nature of marriage in the role of bigots or superstitious fools,”....  Rather, it is necessary to conclude only that the state may not intrude without adequate justification on certain fundamental decisions made by individuals and that, when the state does impose restrictions on these important matters, it must do so in an even-handed manner.
This case is not about whether marriages between same-sex couples are consistent or inconsistent with the teachings of a particular religion, whether such marriages are moral or immoral or whether they are something that should be encouraged or discouraged....  Quite simply, this case is about liberty and equality, the two cornerstones of the rights protected by the United States Constitution.
 As reported by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the court's decision does not make clear whether counties may begin to immediately issue marriage licenses. The court declared the state constitutional and statutory provisions barring same-sex marriage unconstitutional and gave the parties until June 16 to submit proposed language for an injunction. The paper reports:
Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell, a Democrat, began issuing marriage licenses at 5 p.m. Friday as gay couples were married there throughout the night. He said state Department of Justice officials advised him not to issue the licenses but McDonell moved forward despite that.
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen issued a news release announcing that he will file emergency motions in federal courts seeking a stay of the district court's order. Yesterday Van Hollen also issued a statement in a series of nine Tweets saying that his office will continue to defend the constitutionality of "our traditional marriage laws."