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Gay marriage halted in Wisconsin

A federal judge has temporarily halted same-sex couples from marrying in Wisconsin, one week after finding that the ban on such unions was unconstitutional.
Pat Cline, left, and Patty McKenzie wait to get married at the Milwaukee County Courthouse June 6, 2014, in Milwaukee, Wis.
Pat Cline, left, and Patty McKenzie wait to get married at the Milwaukee County Courthouse June 6, 2014, in Milwaukee, Wis.

One week after finding that Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex nuptials violated the U.S. Constitution, a federal judge has temporarily halted any more gay and lesbian couples from marrying in the Badger State.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb -- a President Jimmy Carter appointee -- put a hold on her earlier ruling, which cleared the way for more than 500 same-sex marriages to take place across 60 of the state’s 72 counties, the Associated Press reported. Crabb’s ruling marked a victory for Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican, who requested that the ban be honored while his office appeals her ruling.

"After seeing the expressions of joy on the faces of so many newly wedded couples featured in media reports, I find it difficult to impose a stay on the event that is responsible for eliciting that emotion, even if the stay is only temporary," Crabb said in her order. "Same-sex couples have waited many years to receive equal treatment under the law, so it is understandable that they do not want to wait any longer. However, a federal district court is required to follow the guidance provided by the Supreme Court."

Since June 2013, when the nation’s highest court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and unleashed a wave of legal victories for marriage equality across the country, the justices have weighed in on the issue only a couple of times. One of those instances was in Utah -- a case very similar to Wisconsin’s -- where a federal judge struck down the state’s ban same-sex nuptials and did not immediately stay his decision, even though state officials planned to appeal. That move allowed more than 1,000 gay and lesbian couples to marry in Utah before the Supreme Court granted the state’s request for a temporary hold. Shortly after, Attorney General Eric Holder said the federal government would still recognize the same-sex marriages that took place in Utah, even though it was no longer allowed. No such assurance has yet been made to the gay and lesbian couples who were married in Wisconsin.

Van Hollen said he was “very pleased” with the development.

"County clerks do not have authority under Wisconsin law to issue same-sex marriage licenses," he said in a statement. "Judge Crabb's stay makes this abundantly clear."