Wisconsin counties issue gay marriage licenses

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Gay couples across Wisconsin rushed to wed Monday, as more than half of the counties in the state began issuing licenses ahead of an expected hold on a ruling that the state’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb in Madison struck down the ban Friday in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit challenging the prohibition. But she didn’t order county clerks to begin issuing licenses or block them from handing them out. Instead, she asked the ACLU to submit a proposed order spelling out how the organization wants her decision implemented, which the ACLU did late Monday.

For now, her stance has left county clerks to decide on their own whether they can legally issue licenses to same-sex couples. Clerks in Milwaukee and Madison, the state’s liberal hubs, began issuing licenses to same-sex couples within hours of the ruling. Together the counties issued 238 licenses on Friday and Saturday.

At least 42 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties were issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Monday, according to a canvass by The Associated Press. Clerks in a handful of counties did not answer phone calls. Many, but not all, also waived the state’s five-day waiting period.

Dozens of couples were initially refused licenses in Appleton, Green Bay and elsewhere on Monday while county clerks in those communities sought advice from the Wisconsin Vital Records Office, which keeps marriage records. Nearly 100 people at the Outagamie County Clerk’s office in Appleton objected when told they could not apply for licenses.

“We did tell them we weren’t leaving until licenses were issued,” said Kathy Flores, 47, of Appleton, who hopes to marry her partner, Ann Kendzierski.

Soon after, Outagamie County attorney Joe Guidote told couples that he had advised Clerk Lori O’Bright to accept applications for licenses.