Same sex marriage advocates received a boost as a federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s ban on same sex marriage Friday night, sending gay couples to the courthouse in a rush to be wed. The end of the ban comes at the front of Milwaukee’s PrideFest, adding an extra level of celebration to the event. The ruling is only the latest in a series of cases overturning gay marriage bans.
On Friday afternoon, Federal Judge Barbara Crabb struck down the ban, and couples were lining up at the courthouse in Milwaukee by early evening. Crabb found the ban unconstitutional, saying that gay couples should enjoy the same rights as heterosexual couples. The ruling comes from a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in February. The ban was put in place in 2006.
Couples are worried that the ban could be returned, though. They fear they have only a small window in which to get married, hence many have decided to run to the court to receive their marriage licenses. Couples were again lining up before 6 AM. The courthouse opened at 9, and by 9:30, 45 couples had gotten marriage licenses.
The ACLU’s suit was filed on behalf of four couples. One of the couples, Roy Badger and Garth Wangemann, had run into a problem with Wangemann’s family concerning power of attorney when Wangemann was incapicitated with lung cancer. The family wanted Wangemann removed from life support following a surgery to remove some of his lung, and tried to ignore Badger’s wishes. Wangemann recovered before he could be removed from life support.
As same sex couples in Wisconsin rush to receive their gay marriage licenses, Republican Attorney General JB Van Hollen made it clear that he does not believe that Crabb’s ruling actually allows for gay marriage. He is expected to turn in a petition asking for a halt on all further same sex marriage licenses on Monday. Van Hollen asked Crabb to issue such an order herself, but she has not complied. Couples looking to have s same sex marriage are hoping to receive their licenses before the ban is put back into place.
Crabb does not believe that same sex marriage is an issue of religion, but of right and wrong. Crabb believes that the important focus on the case was liberty and equality, two bedrock principles of the United States of America. The plaintiffs in the ACLU suit said that the ban on same sex marriage made them second class citzens.
The same sex marriage reversal comes on the heels of Pennsylvania’s own overturning of its gay marriage ban by US District Judge John E. Jones III on May 20. Pennsylvania is on the way to become the 19th state to legalize same sex marriage, and Wisconsin could be the 20th. Attorney General Van Hollen called the Wisconsin ruling disappointing. He hopes that Wisconsin will take a more traditional view on marriage, keeping it between one man and one woman.
While the same sex marriage ban in Wisconsin is on hold, gay couples will continue to rush to get married, exercising their rights as Americans. If Attorney General Van Hollen has his wish, however, the elation could be short lived. He will file his petition on Monday.
By Bryan Levy