Judge issues halt to same-sex marriages in Wisconsin, leaves nearly 600 married couples in legal limbo

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J.B. Van Hollen -Photo: onewisconsinnow.org

U.S. Circuit Court Judge Barbara Crabb issued a reluctant stay this afternoon requiring county clerks to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses in Wisconsin.

Crabb said she was required by legal precedent to issue the injunction pending Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s appeal to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

Van Hollen has worked frantically to secure a stay ever since the marriages began on June 6 after Crabb ruled Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. He’s threatened to prosecute county clerks who’ve issued licenses to same-sex couples — a threat that Crabb said Van Hollen had no standing to make good on.

“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 a statement announcing the stay. “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. Because I see no way to distinguish this case from Herbert, I conclude that I must stay any injunctive relief pending appeal.”

Crabb’s ruling puts more than 555 marriages that have already occurred in 60 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties in legal limbo, perhaps for years. An ACLU spokesperson said that couples who were married in Wisconsin over the past week will not have to get married again if Van Hollen ultimately loses his religious war against gay and lesbian equality. 

This is a rapidly changing story and WiG will provide continuous updates as it develops.