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Legal Confusion Abounds in Wisconsin Following Gay Marriage Ruling

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On Friday, Judge Barbara B. Crabb, of Federal District Court in Madison, Wisconsin, issued a ruling that defeated the gay marriage ban in the state, according to The New York Times. With her ruling, the state has been thrust into major legal confusion regarding the marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

“Quite simply, this case is about liberty and equality,” Judge Crabb wrote. “I conclude that the Wisconsin laws banning marriage between same-sex couples are unconstitutional.”

The order was not immediately stayed, which allowed county clerks to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples. Just a handful of days following the ruling 50 of the 72 counties in the state had issued licenses to more than 500 same-sex couples.

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When Judge Crabb issued her ruling she asked that couples suing the state and the state offer their opinions this week on what officials should do and how the federal decision applied to all those involved.

On Monday, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said:

“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.”

A large number of county clerks do not see things the same way. Scott McDonell is the clerk in Dane County. McDonell said, “We’re in charge of marriages; that goes back to the founding of the state. My position, and that of our lawyer, is that the judge struck down the marriage ban, period.”

Adding to the legal confusion, Judge Crabb made it known that when her final order is issued, she will likely also issue a stay so the matter can move through the courts. Her final ruling could come this week. If Judge Crabb fails to issue a stay, the appeals court likely will do so. Many couples that were married on Friday went to their county clerk offices this week to pick-up their marriage certificates.

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