News (USA)

Wis. Democrats seek federal benefits for married, same-sex couples

Wis. Democrats seek federal benefits for married, same-sex couples

MILWAUKEE — The four Democratic members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday to recognize the marriages of more than 500 gay couples who recently wed in the state.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)

Couples began marrying June 6 after a federal judge declared Wisconsin’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. As of midday Thursday, 555 same-sex couples had married, based on a survey by The Associated Press. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb put a stop to additional ceremonies late Friday because the state is appealing her decision.

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.

“We are grateful for this tremendous leadership on behalf of fairness and equality,” the Democrats wrote. “We ask that you similarly declare that those same-sex couples who married in Wisconsin since the June 6 decision are equally entitled to the federal benefits they deserve.”

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Holder’s spokesman did not immediately respond to a request from The Associated Press for 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.

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

Many of the clerks also waived Wisconsin’s five-day waiting period so couples could get licenses and marry quickly.

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