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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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As of midday Thursday, 555 same-sex couples had gotten married in the state in 60 of the state’s 72 counties, based on an Associated Press survey. Couples who were in the middle of the five-day waiting period to get a license, which most counties waived, also are caught in a legal limbo.

John Knight, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the law, said they see the marriages as valid.

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond School of Law who tracks gay marriage cases nationwide, said the legality of those new Wisconsin marriages isn’t clear and that could cause problems.

“The most basic one is joint filing of taxes,” he said. “… I think the harder questions are like adoptions, the really hard issues. That’s why these stays are so gut-wrenching for people.”

He noted similar situations developed in Utah and Michigan.

In Utah, more than 1,000 couples married over 17 days in late December and early January after a judge struck down the state’s 2004 ban. The marriages stopped when the U.S. Supreme Court stayed that ruling, pending an appeal now before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Four of those couples have asked a federal appeals court to allow Utah to recognizing their marriages.

“Certainly the Wisconsin couples could undertake that task if they wanted to,” Tobias said. But he suggested there was little point. He expects the issue to go to the Supreme Court this fall, pushing a resolution well into 2015.

“They usually save their hardest cases for the end, and this may be one of those,” Tobias said.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said the federal government will honor the gay marriages in Utah. A call to the Department of Justice Saturday wasn’t immediately returned.

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