A look at the battle over same-sex marriage in Wisconsin, from the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, which filed the lawsuit that led to this month's federal ruling in favor of marriage equality.
• In 2006, Wisconsin Referendum 1 passed, and became Article XIII, Section 13 of the state constitution. The amendment bans same-sex marriage. It reads, “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.”
• On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in an ACLU case, Windsor v. United States, that section three of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional and that the federal government cannot discriminate against married lesbian and gay couples for the purposes of determining federal benefits and protections. The ruling cleared the way for the Obama administration to direct all cabinet members to oversee changes to policies and regulations that guarantee the federal government does not discriminate against married same-sex couples.
• On 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 who wish to marry in Wisconsin or are seeking recognition for their legal out-of-state marriages.
• On Feb. 28, four additional same-sex couples were added to the case. At the same time, the ACLU filed a preliminary injunction seeking an order that the state may not enforce Wisconsin’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb gave the parties — the plaintiffs represented by the ACLU and the defendants represented namely by Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen — until May 19 to submit motions.
The state filed a motion to dismiss the case and the ACLU, on behalf of our eight client couples, filed a motion for summary judgment.
• On June 6, Crabb declared the state constitutional amendment, Article 13 Section 13, a violation of the equal protection of laws under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. She called marriage “a defining right of passage and one of the most important events in lives of millions of people,” “essential to the pursuit of happiness” and a “fundamental mark of citizenship.”
Crabb asked the ACLU to propose language for a permanent injunction to tell the defendants what they must do and must not do regarding the unconstitutional amendment.
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. Gay and lesbian couples began marrying immediately.
The clerks continued to issue licenses on June 7.
• On June 9, the ACLU filed its proposed injunctive language on the ban on same-sex marriage in Wisconsin. The proposed language, would, among other things require county clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and also provide for recognition of marriage of couples lawfully married in Wisconsin or other jurisdictions. It would also provide to same-sex couples lawfully married in Wisconsin or other jurisdictions all the state law rights, protections, obligations and benefits of marriage that are provided to different-sex couples.
At the same time, Van Hollen continued to press for a stay, at both the district and appeals court levels. He also made clear that he plans 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.
• On June 13, Crabb issued a permanent injunction to ensure that same-sex couples can marry and receive the spousal protections that have been denied them for so very long. But she stayed her opinion pending the state’s appeal to the 7th Circuit in Chicago. This means, according to the ACLU, that for the time being, Wisconsin counties will have to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.