Sun Prairie, Wis., residents David Tyer, left, and Wesley Radtke exchange rings as Dane County Circuit Court Judge Rhonda Lanford presides over a marriage ceremony on the steps of the City County Building in Madison, Wis. Friday, June 6, 2014. Earlier in the day, a federal judge struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriages. (AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, John Hart) / AP
APPLETON – While same-sex couples were married Friday in some parts of Wisconsin, couples in Outagamie and Winnebago counties will have to wait.
A federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage Friday, ruling it unconstitutional and making Wisconsin the 27th state where same-sex couples can marry under law or where a judge has ruled they ought to be allowed to wed.
It wasn’t clear whether U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb’s 88-page ruling allows same-sex marriages to begin immediately, but Milwaukee and Dane county officials began issuing licenses and officiants were at the clerk’s office ready to go in Dane County. Both counties are keeping their clerk’s offices open past regular closing hours.
Renee Currie and Shari Roll, both of Madison, got married on the street just a block from the Capitol. They were first in line at the county courthouse in Madison minutes after Crabb issued her ruling.
Both the Outagamie and Winnebago county clerks told Post-Crescent Media on Friday morning, prior to the ruling, that they would not extend office hours when the ban was lifted. The clerks offices were closing up shop for the weekend when the judge issued her ruling on Friday afternoon.
Outagamie County Clerk Lori O’Bright said the clerk’s office is open 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and applications are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“We’re not going to be running any additional hours. I don’t for opposite-sex couples so we’re going to have the same hours,” O’Bright said.
Winnebago County Clerk Sue Ertmer echoed O’Bright.
“We will be ready to go and we’ll handle them (the same) as opposite-sex marriages. There won’t be any change in procedure. Everyone will be treated exactly the same,” Ertmer said.
Couples not only will have to wait for regular office hours Monday, but it is the clerk’s decision whether to waive a five-day waiting period for marriage licenses. O’Bright does not plan to waive it.
“There is a provision in the statutes that a county clerk could waive the waiting period. However, I apply a pretty high standard to that and I’m going to apply the same standard that I do to opposite-sex couples to same-sex couples,” O’Bright said.
While Ertmer said she is less strict on waivers than her Outagamie County counterpart, she still evaluates waivers on a case-by-case basis.
Based on the counties’ number of domestic partnership applications, neither clerk expects a large number of same-sex marriage applications. O’Bright said Outagamie County has issued just over 100 domestic partnerships since they became legal in Wisconsin in 2009, and Ertmer said Winnebago County’s number was closer to 70.
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen says he will seek an emergency federal court order to stop same-sex marriages.
Appleton Diversity Coordinator Kathy Flores said Van Hollen’s efforts to uphold the state’s 2006 constitutional ban on gay marriage are futile.
“It’s not the first time in history we’ve had an unconstitutional vote, and it’s not the first time an unconstitutional vote has been overturned,” Flores said. “State by state, these bans have been overturned. Efforts to block are being ruled unconstitutional.”
Regardless of the wait times and uncertainties about the future of the constitutional ban, community members are preparing for same-sex couples to marry in the Fox Valley.
Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Appleton will be open Monday to perform same-sex marriages for anyone who wants a religious ceremony, said the Rev. Roger Bertschausen, the fellowship’s senior pastor.
“We’ll be open all day. They don’t have to call us. They can just come by,” Bertschausen said. “We want to be a place that couples can come to celebrate and to get that official recognition that they need from the state.”
Dottie Mathews and Rosie Geiser of Appleton were legally married in California in July 2008, so they’re not sure how Friday’s ruling affects their legal status in Wisconsin, but both are ministers and are ready to marry other same-sex couples.
“It’s just wonderful to be together as many years as we have and finally be recognized as we are,” Mathews said. “We hope next week we’re really busy performing wedding ceremonies for people. It has not escaped our notice that we were legally able to perform weddings, but despite our intense love and commitment, we were not able to be legally married.”
— Holly Meyer: 920-993-1000, ext. 426, or email@example.com; on Twitter @HollyAMeyer. Ariel Cheung: 920-993-1000, ext. 430, firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @arielfab. The Associated Press contributed to this report.