MILWAUKEE — Same-sex couples in Wisconsin convinced some county clerks to give them licenses Monday so they could wed before an expected hold on a judge’s decision declaring the state’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional.
Other clerks, however, refused to act without an order from the court or state, which is appealing the judge’s decision.
Hundreds of couples married over the weekend in Milwaukee and Madison after county clerks in the state’s two largest cities extended office hours following the federal judge’s ruling Friday. Couples living elsewhere had to wait until Monday to get licenses because Wisconsin requires residents to apply in the counties where they live.
Dozens of couples were initially refused licenses in Appleton, Green Bay and elsewhere while county clerks in those communities weighed what to do and sought advice from the Wisconsin Vital Records Office, which keeps marriage records. Nearly 100 people at the Outagamie County Clerk’s office in Appleton objected when told they could not apply for licenses.
Article continues below“We gathered in hopes of getting a license. We were told that would not be happening. We did tell them we weren’t leaving until licenses were issued,” said Kathy Flores, 47, of Appleton, who plans to seek a license to marry her partner, Ann Kendzierski.
Soon after, Outagamie County attorney Joe Guidote told couples that he had advised Clerk Lori O’Bright to accept applications for licenses, although she would not waive Wisconsin’s five-day waiting period, as clerks in Milwaukee and Madison did. Flores said later that she knew one couple who received a waiver because a parent was very ill.
Brown County Clerk Sandy Juno said she decided to go ahead and issue licenses to about 10 couples at her Green Bay office after failing to reach anyone in the Wisconsin Vital Records Office. She said she explained to couples the work would stop as soon as a court put the judge’s decision on hold.
“My staff will be missing their lunch hour to provide as much service as we can to get couples processed,” Juno said.
Jennifer Miller, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health Services, which oversees vital statistics, said the agency would not issue any guidance until it received directions from Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.