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Wis. governor, Democratic challenger spar over same-sex marriage

Monday, June 16, 2014
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Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) and Democratic challenger Mary Burke

Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) and Democratic challenger Mary Burke

A federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s ban as unconstitutional on June 6, and said same-sex couples can get married in the state, but on Friday put that ruling on hold pending ongoing appeals from Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.

Clerks in all but a dozen of Wisconsin’s 72 counties issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples during the week between U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb’s initial decision and her order stopping weddings.

Walker was outspoken in supporting the ban in 2005, when he was briefly a candidate for governor. He voted for the ban and had a history, both as a member of the state Assembly and as Milwaukee County executive, of opposing same-sex marriage and domestic partner benefits.

“It’s a critical issue and the people of Wisconsin want to know where the governor stands,” Burke said. “If I was governor I would want to see gay marriage go forward.”

Recent polls in Wisconsin show public opinion is moving in favor of gay marriage. The most recent Marquette University law school poll released last month showed 55 percent of registered Wisconsin voters favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally. That same poll showed Walker tied with Burke among registered voters.

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Also on Monday, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and U.S. Reps. Ron Kind, Gwen Moore and Mark Pocan sent Holder a letter asking him to recognize the marriages that had already been performed. They noted Holder previously recognized marriages performed in similar circumstances in Utah and Michigan.

Holder’s spokeswoman, Dena Iverson, said the Department of Justice is monitoring developments in Wisconsin. She declined further comment.

Federal recognition would allow couples to file their federal tax returns jointly, qualify for Social Security survivor benefits and help foreign spouses with immigration. The spouses of federal workers and service members could qualify for health, retirement and other benefits.

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