MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Gay couples across Wisconsin rushed to secure marriage licenses Monday, hoping to win legal recognition of their relationships ahead of an expected hold on a ruling that the state's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb in Madison struck down the ban Friday in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit challenging the prohibition. But she didn't order county clerks to begin issuing licenses or block them from handing them out. She said she wants the ACLU to draft an order for her spelling out how the organization wants her decision implemented.
Her stance has left county clerks to decide on their own whether they can legally issue licenses to same-sex couples. Clerks in Milwaukee and Madison, the state's liberal hubs, began issuing licenses to same-sex couples within hours of the ruling. Together the counties issued 238 licenses on Friday and Saturday. According to the ACLU, at least 20 of Wisconsin's 72 counties were issuing licenses as of Monday afternoon.
Dozens of couples were initially refused licenses in Appleton, Green Bay and elsewhere on Monday while county clerks in those communities sought advice from the Wisconsin Vital Records Office, which keeps marriage records. Nearly 100 people at the Outagamie County Clerk's office in Appleton objected when told they could not apply for licenses.
"We did tell them we weren't leaving until licenses were issued," said Kathy Flores, 47, of Appleton, who plans to seek a license to marry her partner, Ann Kendzierski.
Soon after, Outagamie County attorney Joe Guidote told couples that he had advised Clerk Lori O'Bright to accept applications for licenses. Flores said later that she knew one couple who received a waiver because a parent was very ill.
Brown County Clerk Sandy Juno said she decided to issue licenses to about 10 couples at her Green Bay office after failing to reach anyone in the Wisconsin Vital Records Office. She said she explained to couples the work would stop as soon as a court put the judge's decision on hold.
La Crosse County Clerk Ginny Dankmeyer said a county attorney told her not to issue licenses until after Crabb's June 16 deadline for the ACLU to submit its injunction. St. Croix County deputy clerk Cheryl Harmon said her office in Hudson had been told the same thing by its attorney and also was waiting.