Vermonters reacted with mixed emotions to the prospects that a U.S. Senate compromise on labeling GMO foods could impact a state law due to take effect this week.
The law, effective July 1, would make Vermont the first state to require the majority of U.S. food products containing genetically engineered ingredients to bear labels that say “produced with genetic engineering.”
Industry groups have sued to block Vermont’s law, but have been unsuccessful so far. And some food companies have announced plans to begin shipping products with labels compliant with the law.
But in Congress, Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, who chairs the Agriculture Committee, and Michigan’s Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the panel’s top Democrat, announced a deal that would require similar labeling nationwide but allow food companies to use text, a symbol or an electronic label accessed by smartphone. No significant action is expected on the proposal before the Vermont law goes into effect.
In the state, residents had opposing reactions.
A bar code-style label not readable by the naked eye drew the ire of some.
At the Tulsi Tea Room, a vegetarian restaurant specializing in locally produced, organic food, manager Fiona Sullivan said needing a smartphone to read food labels “sounds very classist. You’d have to own a smartphone, for one thing, and you’d need to be educated to a certain degree.”
“It’s another example of big money blocking change that needs to take place,” she said.
But Brenda Steady, who stopped in at the Middle Road Market in Minton for a turkey grinder for lunch, said she was not worried about whether any of its ingredients was made with genetic engineering.
“I think it’s horrible,” Steady, a Democrat, said of the law passed by a Legislature and signed by a governor of her party in 2014. “It’s another way to micromanage small business. If people want to know what is in their products, they can go on Google and check them out.”
Meanwhile, Campbell’s Soup and General Mills announced months ago they would begin shipping products with labels compliant with Vermont’s law. Spokesmen for both companies said Friday they support the federal labeling proposal.
“We need consistency across the country. And without this national solution, we risked having a system of 50 different regulations impacting our packages,” General Mills’ Mike Siemienas said.
Tom Hushen of Campbell’s said the company has “already printed and shipped to comply with Vermont’s law”
“We will continue to comply with Vermont’s law until Congress and the president enact legislation that preempts and replaces it,” Hushen said. “With or without new federal legislation, the Vermont label will continue to appear on shelves across most of the country and well into the future.”
For Yaseen Kadura, a U.S. citizen of Libyan descent, placement on the no-fly list caused problems far beyond the airport.
He was handcuffed and interrogated for hours when he tried to cross borders by land. He struggled to pick a medical school, unsure where he could travel. And when he tried to use Western Union, the transfers never went through. Even after he was removed from no-fly list, many of the problems persisted.
Earlier this month, a civil rights group filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court in Alexandria on behalf of Kadura and thousands of other Americans who have been placed on the terror watch list. The suit seeks unspecified monetary compensation.
Among the plaintiffs is a 4-year-old California boy, listed as Baby John Doe, who according to the lawsuit was placed on the list of known or suspected terrorists as a 7-month-old boy.
The FBI didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
The no-fly list has been the subject of numerous lawsuits, which have been successful to varying degrees. The litigation has forced the government to make modest changes in its administration of the list — those who challenge their placement on the list are now informed of their status and given general information about the reason. Prior to that, the government wouldn’t confirm whether an individual is on the list.
The lawsuits have dragged on for years, the no-fly list itself remains intact and the broader terrorist watch list continues to expand.
The class-action suit provides several advantages, according to Gadeir Abbas, one of the lawyers who filed it. It allows those who were wrongly placed on the list to receive compensation. It eliminates procedural difficulties that would occur when a plaintiff would challenge the list and the government would subsequently allow that individual to fly to avoid a potentially adverse ruling from a sympathetic judge. And it allows the suit to focus on some of the side effects of the watch list that are sometimes overlooked.
Kadura seems to have been placed on the watch list after traveling in 2011 to Libya, where he was working and helping journalists who were flocking to the country to cover civil unrest there.
Shortly after returning, his travel troubles began. In September 2012, he was handcuffed with guns at pointed him and detained at a border crossing after a brief trip to Canada. He said at one point, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent pressured him to become an informant.
“He said, ‘We know you’re not a bad guy. We want you to work with us,’” Kadura said. He told the agent he wanted a lawyer. The agent said that “if you stick with your lawyer it’s going to be difficult for you.”
Kadura appealed his placement on the no-fly list, and last year the government responded that it “reevaluated Mr. Kadura’s redress inquiry and is now providing a new determination. … At this time the U.S. government knows of no reason Mr. Kadura should be unable to fly.”
Still, Kadura experienced problems. In January, he tried to fly domestically, but it took hours on the phone with government officials and questioning from airport agents before he was allowed to board.
And he still can’t use Western Union, according to the lawsuit.
Other plaintiffs have had citizenship applications placed on hold, been detained at the border and had their phones tapped, according to the lawsuit.
“The government has engaged in a decade-long delusion that being placed on a watch list is not a big deal,” the attorney Abbas said. “The goal is for the watch-listing to affect every aspect of these people’s lives.”
The lawsuit alleges that placement on the watch list is motivated by religious profiling rather than any real security threat.
Many of the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit are residents of Dearborn, Michigan, which has a large Arab population and has been subjected to aggressive watch-listing tactics by federal agents, said Lena Masri, a CAIR attorney.
More than 1 million people are on the list of “known or suspected terrorists” administered by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, though most are not U.S. citizens.
States and industry groups dependent on fossil fuels filed court challenges Friday to President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Opponents of the plan filed a flurry of lawsuits at the U.S. Court of Appeals as the Environmental Protection Agency published its final version of the new regulations.
The challenges from all but two of the 25 states were filed by Republicans. They deride the plan as an “unlawful power grab by Washington bureaucrats” that will kill coal mining jobs and drive up electricity costs.
“The Clean Power Plan is one of the most far-reaching energy regulations in this nation’s history,” said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, among those leading the challenges. “I have a responsibility to protect the lives of millions of working families, the elderly and the poor, from such illegal and unconscionable federal government actions.”
The Obama administration and environmental groups counter that the rules are needed to cut carbon emissions while curbing the worst impacts of climate change and sea-level rise. They also say the plan will spur new clean-energy jobs.
The new rules require states to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Each state has a customized target and is responsible for drawing up an effective plan to meet its goal.
“We are confident we will again prevail against these challenges and will be able to work with states to successfully implement these first-ever national standards to limit carbon pollution, the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
The EPA says it has authority to enact the plan under the Clean Air Act. At issue are dueling provisions added to the law by the House and Senate in 1990. The EPA’s interpretation relies on the Senate language, but opponents argue that the House version should win out.
EPA already regulates other power-plant pollutants under a different section of the Clean Air Act, and the opponents claim the law prohibits “double regulation.”
Under the act, certain challenges to agency rules skip the federal district court and go directly to the appeals court in Washington, D.C.
Morrisey also filed a stay barring the plan from taking effect while the court challenges proceed, a question that will likely be up to the Supreme Court.
“We expect polluters and their allies to throw everything they’ve got at the Clean Power Plan, and we expect them to fail,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, among those defending the law. “The Clean Power Plan is based on a law passed by Congress, upheld by the Supreme Court, and demanded by the American people.”
The states challenging the plan in court are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming and Wisconsin.
Also filing suit against the EPA was Murray Energy Corp., the nation’s largest privately owned coal company.
Members of Congress from coal-mining states joined in, saying they will introduce new legislation aimed at blocking the EPA from enforcing the plan.
On the other side, 15 states and the District of Columbia say they are backing the Obama administration and will begin working to comply with the new rules.
There is some political variation in the positions taken within the states. In North Carolina, for example, the environmental agency controlled by the Republican governor joined the opposition without the participation of the state’s Democratic attorney general.
Governors in Colorado and Michigan said they will work to comply with the new EPA rules, even as attorneys general from their states joined the lawsuit.
“Clean air and protecting public health should be everyone’s top priority,” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said Friday. “We believe that Colorado can achieve the clean air goals set by the EPA, at little or no increased cost to our residents.”
The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this summer cleared the way for marriage equality across the United States, but a lot of anti-gay rubbish still litters legislative statutes and bureaucratic regulations.
Same-sex couples in some locales continue to fight for marriage licenses, despite the high court’s ruling. And in some states, married gay couples continue quests for equal treatment as parents, as well as equal treatment in the workplace, health care, education and accommodations.
Fifteen years ago, Mississippi lawmakers banned same-sex couples from adopting children and taking children into foster care. The law, staunchly supported by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, is the only one of its kind in the United States. In early August, four lesbian couples went to federal court and sued Mississippi to overturn the ban.
“The Mississippi adoption ban is an outdated relic of a time when courts and legislatures believed that it was somehow OK to discriminate against gay people simply because they are gay,” the lawsuit states.
Meanwhile, two lesbian couples are suing the state of Florida, which refuses to acknowledge same-sex couples as parents on birth certificates.
“Attorney General Pam Bondi could have avoided yet another costly lawsuit by directing all state agencies to simply comply with the law,” said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, a statewide LGBT advocacy group.
Bondi maintained her defense of Florida’s anti-gay ban on same-sex marriage long after it was clear state and federal judges considered the ban unconstitutional, and she continues to sanction state discrimination against married gay couples.
“Birth certificates are the first official document that represent a newborn baby’s family,” Smith said. “Having an inaccurate birth certificate hinders parents’ ability to take care of their child and access important legal benefits and protections.”
Larry Dupuis, legal director for the ACLU of Wisconsin, said continued vigilance is needed, even after the high court’s ruling. “There is still a lot of educating and a lot of litigating to do,” he said.
In Wisconsin, there apparently haven’t been complaints that the state refuses to recognize same-sex couples on birth certificates. Wisconsin also has recognized that same-sex couples have the same right as different-sex couples to adopt children.
“Since the Wolf decision was affirmed, the state has taken the position that same-sex couples can adopt on the same terms as different-sex couples, and there’s no longer a prohibition on adoption,” Dupuis said, referring to the ACLU of Wisconsin’s federal case that secured marriage equality in the state. “Before Wolf, the second-parent adoption had not been allowed in Wisconsin. So that was a big change.”
A federal appeals court this week threw out a pair of high-profile lawsuits challenging the Obama administration’s sweeping plan to address climate change, saying it’s too early to challenge a proposed rule that isn’t yet final.
The ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is a temporary setback to opponents of the plan who are expected to renew their legal attack once the regulation is finalized later this year.
The lawsuits from a coalition of 15 states — including Wisconsin — and the nation’s largest privately-held coal mining company claim the EPA exceeded its authority last year when it proposed the far-reaching plan to curb pollution from the nation’s existing coal-fired power plants.
Opponents had argued that even though the rule is not yet final, they are already facing steep costs to get ready for it. But the appeals court said that has never before been a justification for a court to examine a proposed rule that could still be changed before it becomes a final regulation.
“They want us to do something that they candidly acknowledge we have never done before,” wrote Judge Brett Kavanaugh. “We do not have authority to review proposed agency rules.”
The court also said public statements by EPA officials about what the rule will do are not considered final agency action.
The rule the EPA proposed last year is a centerpiece of Obama’s efforts to reduce pollution linked to global warming and one of his most significant acts during his final years in office. It would require states to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Each state has a customized target and is responsible for drawing up an effective plan to meet its goal.
One lawsuit was filed by a coalition of 15 coal-reliant states. The second was from Ohio-based Murray Energy Corp., the nation’s largest privately-held coal mining company.
EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia said agency officials are pleased with the court’s ruling and expect to issue a final rule by “mid-summer.” The agency had initially said the rule would be finalized by June 1, but that was pushed back earlier this year.
Opponents say the plan will force coal companies to shut down plants, shed thousands of jobs and drive up electricity prices. They argue that the plan is illegal because the EPA already regulates other power plant pollutants under a different section of the Clean Air Act. They say the law prohibits “double regulation.”
The EPA, however, says it has authority for the plan under the Clean Air Act. At issue are dueling provisions added by the House and Senate to the Clean Air Act in 1990. The EPA says it wins under the Senate language, but opponents argue that the House version should prevail.
The advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund called the decision “a big win in protecting our communities and families against the massive carbon pollution from power plants and an important victory for a fair and democratic rulemaking process.”
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said he was disappointed with the ruling but “we still think we have a compelling case that the rule is unlawful.” He said the state would continue with litigation to stop “this unlawful power grab by Washington bureaucrats.”
A statement from Murray Energy said the company would “fully litigate the rule” once it is made final.
The states challenging the EPA plan are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wyoming and Wisconsin.
On the other side, 13 states and the District of Columbia are backing the Obama administration plan.
The partisan divide over same-sex marriage among top elected officials remains stark, with Democrats overwhelmingly on record in favor and Republicans mostly silent so far.
The list of Republicans who are supporting same-sex marriage, in cases set for argument April 28 at the U.S. Supreme Court, is much longer than it was two years ago, but it remains conspicuously short of sitting members of Congress and governors.
President Barack Obama is the top Democrat calling on the Supreme Court to extend same-sex marriage nationwide. He is joined by 211 Democrats and independents in Congress and 19 Democratic state attorneys general.
On the Republican side are just seven sitting members of Congress and one governor, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts.
Massachusetts was the first state in which same-sex couples could marry, starting in 2004, as a result of a state Supreme Court ruling.
Baker put his support in personal terms. “My view on this is pretty simple. I have a brother who’s gay. He lives in Massachusetts. He’s married,” Baker said when the Republicans’ brief was filed in early March. “There simply wasn’t a moral justification” for denying same-sex couples the right to marry, Baker said.
Senators who signed the brief are Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois. The House members are Reps. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, Bob Dold of Illinois, Chris Gibson of New York, Richard Hanna of New York and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.
Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who announced his support for same-sex marriage in 2013 after Portman’s son told him he is gay, is not among the signers.
The Supreme Court is considering state marriage bans from Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.
Other prominent Republicans who joined the brief are: billionaire political donor David Koch; former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; Mary Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney; former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, six former governors and 16 former members of Congress.
The Alabama Supreme Court has made itself an outlier in the judicial march legalizing same-sex marriages in the United States, drawing rebukes from gay rights advocates and evoking comparisons to Alabama’s defiance of federal authorities during the civil rights movement.
The court set up a showdown with a Mobile, Alabama, federal judge this week when it ordered officials in the state to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses pending a U.S. Supreme Court decision later this year on whether gays and lesbians have a fundamental right to marry.
The Alabama ruling contradicts U.S. District Judge Callie “Ginny” Granade, who declared in January that Alabama’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution.
“Even as nationwide marriage equality is on the horizon, the Alabama Supreme Court is determined to be on the wrong side of history,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
Alabama wasn’t the first state where a federal trial or appeals court declared same-sex marriages legal, but the state justices made Alabama the only state to push back in advance of the U.S. Supreme Court settling the matter.
The justices’ decision had quick results: By Wednesday afternoon, gay rights advocates said they could not find one of Alabama’s 67 counties where a same-sex couple could get a marriage license. Before the ruling, 48 counties had issued licenses in compliance with Granade’s earlier declarations.
The Alabama justices don’t dispute that the nation’s highest court will have the final say. But absent that ruling, the justices reasoned, they remain the ultimate authority on applying the U.S. Constitution to a state law. “State courts may interpret the U.S. Constitution independently from, and even contrary to, federal courts,” they wrote in a decision that described “traditional” marriage as “the fundamental unit of society.”
Minter, the attorney who represented gay couples who initially challenged Alabama’s ban, said the state justices showed “callous disregard” for their rights.
Dean Lanton said he and his partner, Randy Wells, had planned to wed in Birmingham on Aug. 12, the anniversary of their first date, but now might have to get married out of state because of the decision.
“It was a punch in the gut. It was out of the blue,” said Lanton, 54. “It’s just Alabama politics, deja vu from the 1960s.”
University of Alabama law professor Ronald Krotoszynski said the Alabama justices are technically correct in asserting their authority in the case. The U.S. Constitution actually doesn’t say whether state courts must adhere to federal court rulings. It simply created U.S. Supreme Court and authorized Congress to create other federal courts as necessary.
But Krotoszynski said the particular circumstances still make the Alabama action surprising, particularly given that the 11th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Atlanta and the U.S. Supreme Court itself declined Alabama’s earlier requests to delay Granade’s order until after the high court rules this year.
Many legal observers have interpreted those refusals as the court telegraphing its intention to rule in favor of same-sex marriage advocates.
“Does the (Alabama) court have the power to do this? Yes,” the professor said. “Was it wise for the court to exercise its power this way? I’d say no. … This is just not a standard kind of move in the inter-relationship between state and federal courts.”
Same-sex couples will likely appeal up to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary to block the latest state supreme court ruling, said Ben Cooper, chairman of Equality Alabama. “It’s important to understand that this is not nearly the end of this,” he said.
Montgomery County Probate Judge Steven Reed, a Democrat who was among the first to comply with Granade’s order, said he would likely join an appeal.
John Enslen, Reed’s colleague in neighboring Elmore County, however, praised the Alabama justices. He wrote on his Facebook page that he is “saddened for my nation that the word `marriage’ has been hijacked by couples who cannot procreate.”
Then there are the county officials who aren’t advocating a position – they’re just tired of the legal roller coaster.
“It’s very frustrating,” said Probate Judge Leon Archer in rural Tallapoosa County. “I had done made up my mind we were going to issue the licenses and I thought that was it. And I think that is going to be the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in June.”
Eight same-sex couples — with a team of lawyers — committed earlier this year to overturn Wisconsin’s constitutional amendment barring gays and lesbians from the freedom to marry in the state. Their fight continues, but already their pursuit of equality has resulted in the marriages of at least 555 same-sex couples in Wisconsin.
“These families simply want the security and recognition that only marriage provides,” Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, had said when he filed the equality case in Madison in February. “They have built their lives and raised children here. It is wrong for the state to treat these loving and committed couples as second-class citizens, and it is cruel to place them in a catch-22 where they can’t even travel elsewhere to obtain federal protections without their marriage being labeled a crime.”
The couples’ attorneys, the state’s equal rights leaders and the gays and lesbians who hope to take marriage vows, have heralded the couples — Charvonne Kemp and Marie Carlson, Judith Trampf and Katharina Heyning, Roy Badger and Garth Wangemann, Johannes Wallmann and Keith Borden, Salud Garcia and Pam Kleiss, Kami Young and Karina Willes, Bill Hurtubise and Dean Palmer — as heroes.
“To be a plaintiff in a case like this, you have to put yourself out there and vow to see the fight through maybe all the way to the Supreme Court,” said April Goodmann, a Waukesha resident who when the case is settled for good hopes to marry her longtime girlfriend. “These people are heroes, plain and simple. They are my heroes.”
There now are hundreds of heroes serving as plaintiffs in more than 70 marriage equality cases pending in 31 states.
And there’s a long history of heroes who, with the support of groups such as the ACLU and Lambda Legal, challenged laws and regulations, changing the lives of LGBT people in housing and schools, in the Armed Forces and on the job, at the marriage license bureau and in the privacy of their own bedrooms. Most of them have been plaintiffs, but some have been defendants.
A look at just a handful of the many LGBT civil rights cases fought over the years and the legal activists involved in them:
• Jamie Nabozny. For four years, Nabozny was subjected to anti-gay verbal and physical abuse by students at his school in Ashland, Wisconsin. Students urinated on him, pretended to rape him during class and, in one assault, kicked him so many times in the stomach that he required surgery. Nabozny sued the school district and won in a federal appeals court in Chicago, which said in 1996 that public schools are obligated to protect students from anti-gay abuse. Nabozny, represented by Lambda, also won back in Wisconsin, where a jury in 1996 also found school officials liable.
• Richard G. Evans. Evans, an administrator in Denver, was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking to overturn Colorado’s Amendment 2, enacted by voters in 1992. The amendment barred governments in the state from enacting non-discrimination ordinances or policies that would protect gays. The state argued that Amendment 2 simply prohibited creating “special rights” for gays, but Evans et al., represented by the ACLU and Lambda Legal, argued the measure denied gays the right to participate in the political process. The U.S. Supreme Court, ruling in 1996, said the amendment did not satisfy the Equal Protection Clause. The majority opinion said, “The resulting disqualification of a class of persons from the right to seek specific protection from the law is unprecedented in our jurisprudence.”
• John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner. On Sept. 17, 1998, deputies in Harris County, Texas, were dispatched to an apartment expecting to deal with a “black male going crazy with a gun.” It was a false claim, called in to police by a jealous man. At the apartment, two deputies said they saw Lawrence and Garner engaged in sexual activity. They arrested the men for “deviate sex.” The two pleaded no contest before a justice of the peace, then appealed in Texas Criminal Court. Their case, managed by Lambda Legal, reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 2003 that sexual relationships between consenting adults are protected by the 14th Amendment.
• Ninia Baerhr and Genora Dancel. The women became the lead plaintiffs in Baehr v. Miike, the landmark lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry in Hawaii in the 1990s. Though state lawmakers and voters erected barriers to the plaintiffs securing that right in the 1990s, their case launched the marriage equality movement and resulted, way back in 1993, in the first high court ruling for gay marriage. Today, Hawaii is an equality state.
• Edith Windsor. Windsor is the widow of Thea Clary Spyer and the executor of Spyer’s estate. The women married in Canada in 2007, two years before Spyer’s death, and their marriage was legal in the state of New York. But until last summer, the marriage was not recognized by the federal government, which imposed $363,000 in taxes on the estate left to Windsor. Windsor’s lawsuit, brought by the ACLU, resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Section 3 in the Defense of Marriage Act and the full federal recognition of gay marriages.
• Miguel Brashi. Braschi and Leslie Blanchard lived together for 10 years in a rent-controlled apartment in New York City, beginning in 1975. When Blanchard died in September 1986, the landlord threatened to evict Braschi, maintaining that he had no right to stay because Blanchard was the tenant of record. The 1989 case, Braschi v. Stahl, led the court to expand the definition of family in the city’s rent control regulations. The majority opinion said that protection against eviction “should not rest on fictitious legal distinctions or genetic history, but instead should find its foundation in the reality of family life.”
Hundreds of gay couples have married in Wisconsin since June 6, when a federal judge declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.
The ceremonies have largely been concentrated in Milwaukee and Madison, where county clerks kept their offices open Friday night and June 7 to issue licenses. Clerks in other counties began issuing licenses on June 9.
There has been some confusion following U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb’s ruling because she did not order counties to issue marriage licenses. Instead, she asked the American Civil Liberties Union to submit a proposed order and said she would let both sides weigh in on that. The ACLU said late Monday that it submitted its proposal, which would require state officials to let gay couples marry and to recognize gay marriages performed in other states.
Here are a few more things to know while the matter is being sorted out:
THE COUPLES WHO SUED HAVE NOT MARRIED. The ACLU filed its lawsuit in January on behalf of eight same-sex couples. Attorney Larry Dupuis said Monday that none had wed yet. He declined to say what legal advice they had been given.
COUPLES CAN GET LICENSES IN MORE THAN HALF THE STATE. County clerks in 49 of the state’s 72 counties told The Associated Press they were issuing licenses. A few did not return phone calls. Some who were initially reluctant to act without an order from the court or Wisconsin Vital Records Office started accepting applications later in the day after seeing their peers do so and learning that Crabb had refused Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s request for an emergency order stopping the marriages.
HITTING THE ROAD WON’T HELP GET A LICENSE. Wisconsin requires residents to apply for marriage licenses in the county where they live. That means gay couples can’t just go to Milwaukee, Madison or another city where licenses are being issued to get one. Instead, they must wait until their county clerk acts. Clerks also have the option of waiving the state’s five-day waiting period to receive a marriage license, and some are doing that but others are not.
PUBLIC PRESSURE MAKES A DIFFERENCE. Outagamie County Clerk Lori O’Bright told gay couples early on June 9 that she wouldn’t accept marriage license applications from them before hearing from a county attorney or Van Hollen. But the nearly 100 people gathered in her office refused to leave until they had filled out the paperwork. Outagamie County attorney Joe Guidote drew cheers from the crowd when he told them he had advised O’Bright to accept applications. The clerk also waived the waiting period for one couple because one partner’s mother was seriously ill.
BIRTH CERTIFICATES ARE NEEDED. A number of same-sex couples have been slowed in their quests for marriage licenses because they didn’t have all the needed documents. Wisconsin requires applicants to be at least 18 years old and prove it with a certified copy of their birth certificate. Applicants also have to show proof of residency, such as with a driver’s license, and provide a death or divorce certificate if they have been married previously. It’s a good idea to bring a Social Security card, too, because the clerks need that number.