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More than 500 married, same-sex couples in Wisconsin left in legal limbo

Saturday, June 14, 2014
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Rev. Tony Larsen and his partner Craig Matheus are refused a marriage license by Racine County Clerk Wendy Christensen in the clerk's office inside the Racine County Courthouse on Friday, June 13, 2014.Scott Anderson, Journal Times (AP)

Rev. Tony Larsen and his partner Craig Matheus are refused a marriage license by Racine County Clerk Wendy Christensen in the clerk’s office inside the Racine County Courthouse on Friday, June 13, 2014.

MILWAUKEE — A federal judge’s order for Wisconsin officials to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses didn’t address the legal status of the more than 550 gay marriages conducted in the last week, and subsequent statements by state officials have not removed the uncertainty.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb struck down Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage on June 6 but did not tell clerks what to do until Friday, when she halted marriages while an appeal from Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is pending.

“It hurts, you know,” Lisa Akey said after the ruling Friday, a day after she married her partner of 16 years in Marathon County. “It’ll hurt more if I find out that what I did yesterday was basically pointless, but it definitely does hurt.”

State income taxes, pensions and health insurance are among many issues affected by a person’s legal marriage status.

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The Wisconsin Vital Records Office started processing same-sex marriage licenses Wednesday, after receiving guidance from Van Hollen’s office that it could move ahead.

But Van Hollen said Thursday that same-sex couples with marriage licenses aren’t legally married because Crabb had not told county clerks how to interpret her ruling striking down the ban. His spokeswoman, Dana Brueck, reiterated that position in an email Saturday, saying Wisconsin’s marriage law — including the same-sex marriage ban Crabb originally ruled against — was in force pending Van Hollen’s appeal.

Brueck acknowledged, however, that the validity of the marriages remained uncertain.

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