News (USA)

Judge suggests she will put same-sex marriages in Wisconsin on hold

MADISON, Wis. — The federal judge who struck down Wisconsin’s ban on same sex marriage a week ago strongly suggested Friday she would put that ruling on hold, but said she likely would issue a clear order by the end of the day.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb didn’t immediately rule after Friday’s hearing, but hinted that she is likely to halt further marriages after a week in which more than 500 gay couples were married around Wisconsin. Crabb said she “probably” would issue her order later Friday.

“I’ll try to make whatever I decide plain, clear, understandable,” Crabb told attorneys challenging the law after being asked whether she will give direction to clerks about what to do next.

Friday’s hearing came exactly one week after Crabb ruled the state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. But Crabb didn’t issue any orders on how state officials were to implement her decision, and amid the uncertainty, nearly every Wisconsin county – 60 of 72 – issued licenses.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is appealing Crabb’s ruling and sought a hold on further marriages. Crabb seemed to suggest she would grant it, referring to the Supreme Court’s action to grant just such a stay in Utah when the district court there failed to do so.

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Federal district courts must follow rulings of the Supreme Court, Crabb said, referencing the high court’s ruling in the Utah case. That ruling suggests the Supreme Court will put her ruling on hold if she does not.

“I’m just at the bottom level of the system,” Crabb said.

Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said after the hearing he would “greatly appreciate direction from her,” but he expected based on Crabb’s comments in court that she would put the ruling on hold and thereby stop clerks from issuing licenses.

John Knight, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the law, said no matter what Crabb does, “We’re very confident ultimately we will prevail.”

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