Wisconsin state office reverses course, processes marriage licenses of same-sex couples

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Wisconsin has changed its stance on same-sex couples’ marriage licenses and elected to begin processing them, rather than simply hold them as it had been.

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 by Monday more than half of the counties in Wisconsin were issuing licenses to all couples. Due to conflicting statements on the legality of marriage equality in the state, the Wisconsin Vital Records Office initially chose to wait to process same-sex couples’ marriage licenses.

To further complicate matters, according to CBS Minnesota, Crabb stated on June 8 that she had not intended for her ruling to be effective until she issues a court injunction, which is expected to happen shortly after a scheduled hearing on Friday, June 13.

State officials, including Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen, are appealing the decision, and Hollen has released statements that the ban is still in force. ThinkProgress reported that according to the state’s Health Services, “the state is attempting to place the burden on the couples if the ban is upheld,” as spokeswoman Stephanie Smiley told them, “Once there is an ultimate decision made on the issue, the responsibility will be on individuals to make any necessary changes to their record.”

It is not certain how Wisconsin expects couples to potentially dissolve their own marriages—while a stay on same-sex marriages pending appeals is nearly inevitable, the couples that have already wed will not be instantly rendered single again. In recent virtually identical cases, judges have ordered states such as Utah to legally recognize the same-sex couples who married during their windows of opportunity, however brief.

Additionally, Attorney General Eric Holder has extended eligibility for federal benefits to such couples before, meaning they will be able to file federal taxes jointly, qualify for Social Security benefits for their spouses, and sponsor partners for immigration, among other benefits.

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