Wisconsin AG files appeal in marriage equality case

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Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. - PHOTO: Courtesy

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen filed his appeal of the federal ruling striking down the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

The appeal was filed this week, officially bringing the case to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, where the court is expected to deal with the challenge as it takes up an equality lawsuit from Indiana.

In early June, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the state ban on same-sex marriage, which voters approved in 2006, violates the equal protection and due process guarantees in the U.S. Constitution.

Crabb's ruling in the ACLU case led to a rush on the county clerk's offices in Dane and Milwaukee counties on June 6. Same-sex couples began marrying in those counties on that night, and more county clerks joined in issuing licenses over the next several days.

In all, more than 500 gay couples were married in early June in Wisconsin.

The weddings of same-sex couples in Wisconsin ended with the issuance of a stay pending the state's appeal, which was not filed until July 10. Van Hollen had until July 21 to file.

He said in an email to the Associated Press that the state filed early because of the court's decision to expedite its review of the Indiana case. Briefs on motions in the Indiana case are due on Aug. 5.

Van Hollen said, "The goal of our timing is simple: to ensure that Wisconsin is placed on equal footing with Indiana, and that our constitution and laws are given timely consideration by the appellate judges."

John Knight, a lead attorney with the ACLU, said, "We're disappointed to see that the state is still fighting to stop loving, committed couples from marrying. However, we are glad to see an end to the state's effort to put off resolution of this case."

Meanwhile, the state of Utah has said it plans to take its defense of its constitutional ban on same-sex marriage to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Marriage equality march in Wisconsin: A timeline

• November 2006: Wisconsin Referendum 1 passed and became Article XIII, Section 13, of the state constitution. The amendment states, “Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state.”

• June 26, 2013: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Windsor v. United States that Section 3 of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and that the federal government cannot discriminate against married lesbian and gay couples for the purposes of determining federal benefits and protections.

• Feb. 23: The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin and the law firm of Mayer Brown filed a federal lawsuit in Madison on behalf of four same-sex couples seeking marriage equality.

• Feb. 28: Four additional same-sex couples were added to the ACLU case. At the same time, the ACLU requested an order that the state may not enforce Wisconsin’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples.

• May 19: This was the deadline set by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb for the parties — the plaintiffs represented by the ACLU and the defendants represented by Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen — to submit motions. The state filed a motion to dismiss the case and the ACLU, on behalf of eight client couples, filed a motion for summary judgment.

• June 6: Crabb declared the state constitutional amendment a violation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That night, clerks offices in Dane County and Milwaukee County began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and waived the five-day waiting period for couples who paid for expedited service. Gay and lesbian couples began marrying immediately.

• June 7: Clerks in Dane and Milwaukee continued to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

• June 9: Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen pressed for a stay at both the district and appeals court levels. He also made clear that he planned a full appeal of Crabb's ruling. Meanwhile, the number of counties where clerks were issuing marriage licenses to gay couples grew and continued to grow throughout the week.

• June 13: Crabb issued a permanent injunction to ensure that same-sex couples can marry, but she stayed her opinion pending the state’s appeal to the 7th Circuit in Chicago. County clerks stopped issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

• June 16: Wisconsin Democratic leaders in Congress called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to confirm that the federal government will recognize the marriages of gay couples in Wisconsin.

July 10: Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen files an appeal in the case.

— L.N.