« Ind. Law - Next Tuesday, June 17th, is GA technical corrections day | Main | Environment - "Illiana highway ruling slowed by wildlife worries" »

Friday, June 13, 2014

Courts - "Legal Confusion Follows Federal Judge’s Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage in Wisconsin"

Erik Eckholm reports today in a long story in the NY Times:

In her ruling last Friday that struck down Wisconsin’s amendment limiting marriage to a man and a woman, Judge Barbara B. Crabb spoke plainly on the basic question.

“Quite simply, this case is about liberty and equality,” she wrote, echoing a string of similar decisions across the country. “I conclude that the Wisconsin laws banning marriage between same-sex couples are unconstitutional.”

But Judge Crabb of Federal District Court in Madison, Wis., took an unusual tack that has led to days of legal confusion, pitting county clerks against the state attorney general.

As in other states where similar rulings were not immediately stayed, county clerks in Madison and Milwaukee quickly began issuing marriage licenses to jubilant couples, some of whom brought wedding cakes to the courthouse. Within days, about 50 of the state’s 72 counties had joined in, issuing marriage licenses to more than 500 same-sex couples so far.

Most legal experts suspected that a higher court would soon temporarily block the ruling, pending appeal, as occurred in Utah and Michigan, and the issuing of licenses would halt. But at issue is whether the same-sex marriages performed before a stay is granted will stand. * * *

Judge Crabb took a different approach. Instead of issuing an implementing order as she voided the state ban, she asked the suing couples and the state to offer opinions this week on what exactly state officials should do and how widely the federal decision applied.

To the frustration of the Wisconsin’s Republican attorney general, J. B. Van Hollen, that meant that the District Court ruling was not final. The state did not automatically have standing to file for a stay with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which would probably bring same-sex marriages to a temporary halt. * * *

Adding to the confusion, Judge Crabb has made it clear in hearings that once her final order is issued, which could occur over the coming week, she is likely to issue a stay to allow the issue to proceed through the courts. If she does not, the appeals court almost certainly will.

Would the incomplete nature of her ruling last week mean the marriages performed since Friday would prove invalid?

“We don’t know; we’ve never had a situation like this,” said Dale Carpenter, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Minnesota.

“This adds an additional layer of legal questions on top of the existing questions,” he said.

Don't miss reading the whole story.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 13, 2014 08:41 AM
Posted to Courts in general