Wisconsin

ACLU files new lawsuit seeking recognition of Wis. same-sex marriages

Kem Highfill, left, and Richard Rehm fill out their marriage license at county clerks office Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Madison, Wis. after a federal judge struck down the state's gay marriage ban. Andy Manis, AP

Kem Highfill, left, and Richard Rehm fill out their marriage license at county clerks office Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Madison, Wis. after a federal judge struck down the state's gay marriage ban. Andy Manis, AP

Kem Highfill, left, and Richard Rehm fill out their marriage license at the county clerk’s office Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Madison, Wis. after a federal judge struck down the state’s gay marriage ban.

MADISON, Wis. — The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking recognition of Wisconsin gay couples who married in June after a judge temporarily blocked the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit in February challenging the ban. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb found the ban was unconstitutional in June and more than 500 gay couples rushed to get married. But a week later, Crabb put the ruling on hold pending appeal, and put the ban back into effect.

Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has said Crabb’s ruling didn’t give county clerks the authority to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and the status of their unions is legally uncertain. He also said prosecutors could choose to charge county clerks who issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Crabb’s decision earlier this month. State attorneys now have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case.

ACLU attorneys on Wednesday filed a federal lawsuit in Madison on behalf of four gay Wisconsin couples who married during the week between Crabb’s ruling and her decision to put it on hold. The lawsuit seeks a declaration that the weddings were valid. Such a ruling would guarantee the couples a host of legal rights and benefits, including the ability to file joint tax returns and make medical decisions for one another.

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“Our clients have married in Wisconsin and that isn’t something the State can take away from them or refuse to recognize,” ACLU attorney Larry Dupuis said. “The State of Wisconsin has placed hundreds of same-sex couples, including our clients, in an untenable position of not knowing if their marriages will be respected and recognized or simply ignored.”

Van Hollen spokeswoman Dana Brueck had no immediate comment.

Kiersten and Angie Bloechl-Karlsen, who got married three months ago, joined two other married gay couples at a Milwaukee news conference, where they said they’re not sure whether the state will respect their parental rights regarding Angie’s nearly 3-year-old daughter, Maiken.

“I’ve been (Maiken’s) mother from day one,” Kiersten Bloechl-Karlsen said. “But if something were to happen to Angie I would be left without any rights beyond that of a baby-sitter.”

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