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Wisconsin Judge Strikes Down 2006 Marriage Ban

By Michelle Garcia

A federal judge in Wisconsin struck down that state's 2006 law barring same-sex couples from marrying.

U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb (pictured left) ruled Friday that the voter-approved state constitutional amendment, which passed with 59 percent support in 2006, violated the U.S. Constitution.

Eight years later, however, a Marquette Law School poll released in May, however, shows that 55 percent of registered Wisconsin voters now support marriage equality, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

It was not immediately clear whether same-sex couples could beging marrying, the Associated Press reports. Although Republican attorney general J.B. Van Hollen, who defended the ban in court, said the law is still in force and promised to appeal the decision, at least one county clerk announced that his office would stay open late Friday, and bring in extra staff on Saturday, to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Madison's News Channel 3 reports that Dane County Clerk Scott McDonnell began issuing marriage licenses at 5 p.m. local time, and will keep his office open until 9 p.m. tonight, and will bring in clerks from other counties to help issue licenses Saturday. News Channel 3 reports that at least one same-sex couple had received a marriage license as of 5:15 p.m. Central.

Gov. Scott Walker had distanced himself from the marriage ban, and said he didn't know whether it  violated the U.S. Constitution, or whether voters would approve of it today. While Van Hollen filed a motion in court earlier this month asking the judge to stay her decision if she rules in favor of the plaintiffs, he also said he would not be surprised if the state lost the case.

The American Civil Liberties Union represented the eight couples who filed suit challenging the law.

"We are tremendously happy that these loving and committed couples will now be able to access the security and recognition that only marriage provides,” said Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “These discriminatory laws are falling around the country and it is only right that Wisconsin move forward as well.”

The couples involved with the suit either are married in another state that recognizes marriages for gay and lesbian couples or are seeking the ability to wed in their home state. Two of the plaintiffs, Kami Young and Karina Willes, married in Minnesota and have a child, but because Young is the birth mother, she is the only one who is recognized as the legal parent on the birth certificate.

“Our daughter has two parents who love her dearly,” said Willes. “I am no less a mother to her than Kami is, and she deserves the security of having both of her parents legally recognized. Our daughter shouldn’t have second-class protections.”

There are still more than 70 federal and state court cases challenging marriage bans all across the country.

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