Wisconsin is currently electing to hold rather than process same-sex couples’ marriage licenses, due to conflicting statements on the legality of marriage equality in the state.
A spokesperson for the Wisconsin Vital Records Office, Jennifer Miller, told the Journal Times that they are waiting on legal guidance from Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen.
On Friday, June 6, US District Court Judge Barbara Crabb struck down Wisconsin’s ban on marriage equality on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, and did not stay her ruling. Though she did not specify if county and state officials should begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, more than half of the counties in Wisconsin are currently issuing licenses to all couples.
Hollen, who is appealing the decision, has released statements that the ban is still in force. However, Miller said that he hasn’t given the state Vital Records Office any directions on what to do with same-sex couples’ marriage licenses. A spokesperson for him, Dana Brueck, said in a statement that Hollen’s office has in fact been in contact with Vital Records, but “whatever we may advise is attorney-client privilege,” and would not relay what had been said.
Dane County Register of Deeds Kristi Chlebowski pointed out that legally speaking, a couple is considered to be married after they have held a ceremony, their marriage license is completed by their wedding officiant, and it is signed by two witnesses, whether or not their state’s office files a record of the license.
Additionally, Miller made certain to mention that the Vital Records Office is not rejecting any licenses: “They are just being held.”
Chlebowski also said that after she sought advice from County Executive Joe Parisi, on June 9 she took five same-sex couples’ licenses to the state Vital Records Office to see how they responded—and at first, the employee there refused to take them. “He did not want them, [because]they didn’t know what do with them.” She said that another employee eventually took over the task.
The lack of instructions regarding what to do with same-sex marriage licenses has some county clerks complaining, while others who are uncertain have gone to county attorneys for advice.
Wisconsin normally has a five-day waiting period before couples can marry, but many country clerks reported that they are waiving it on the grounds that no one knows if or when a court order demanding an immediate halt will be issued.