Despite a federal judge striking down Wisconsin’s gay marriage ban last week and refusing to issue a stay on same sex marriages Monday, gay and lesbian couples cannot receive marriage licenses in Racine County.
U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb Friday struck down the state’s gay marriage ban as unconstitutional. Eight couples represented by the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) filed suit in February alleging the constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2006 violated their rights.
Jen Wold and Jodi Bova of Wind Lake were at the Racine County Courthouse at 8 a.m. Monday to apply for a marriage license, but Racine County Clerk Wendy Christensen turned them away. They were one of eight couples – including a pastor and his partner – who ventured downtown for a license.
Christensen told the couple that until the state Office of Vital Statistics issues clear directions there won’t be any licenses issued for same sex couples.
“Couples have come and gone, people have called, and we all get the same generic answer,” Wold messaged from the courthouse. “The generic answer is that they need more directives on how to fill out the forms. The county attorneys suggested they not give out any applications until more verification comes.”
County Executive Jim Ladwig told Racine County Eye over the weekend that issuing licenses would be up to Christensen but that he expected Christensen to follow counsel’s advice to wait for clearer directions from either the court or the state.
Racine County Eye readers’ reaction to the county’s position was swift and divided fairly evenly on each side of the issue.
“You go ladies!!!! Many are behind you!” Tracie Slegers posted on the RCE Facebook page.
Harry Johnson agreed.
“Hell, they deserve to be happy to. Let’s bless their marriage as they bless ours,” he wrote.
Steve Doering doesn’t believe same sex marriage should be accepted.
“In the end God is the judge, and in His eyes gays are sinners,” he posted. “And go have a minister marry you, it doesn’t matter, you really won’t be married because God wont acknowledge it as a marriage.”
A reader posting under the name Jessica Mrsjordanjohnson sided with Doering.
“I don’t hate gay people at all, they just have there (sic) morals wrong that’s all,” she posted. “And I’m doing God’s work by spreading the word that it is so wrong. But the gay people will find out … that’s not how God intended it to be.”
Crabb refused to stay her decision after a brief hearing Monday afternoon. Instead, she wants to hear from the plaintiffs by June 16 on what parts of the law they want blocked. Another hearing is scheduled for June 19.
In the meantime, other counties in Southeast Wisconsin like Milwaukee and Kenosha – as well as 28 other counties – were issuing marriage licenses, a story at jsonline.com reads. Couples in Outagamie and Brown counties were initially refused but later granted their licenses.
State Attorney J.B. Van Hollen filed a motion for an emergency stay with the U.S. Court of Appeals Seventh Circuit and issued a statement directing county officials to stop issuing licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
“At today’s hearing, Judge Crabb reiterated that Wisconsin marriage law has not been enjoined,” the statement reads. “Wisconsin’s marriage law is in full force and effect, and all state and local officials are under a continuing duty to follow Wisconsin’s marriage law unless and until the court enjoins that law.”
After Wold and Bova learned about Crabb not issuing a stay, the couple decided to head back home and look forward to possibly getting their marriage license next week.
“We’re heartbroken,” Wold said. “We’ve never felt like second class citizens as much as we do today.”