US: Federal judge for now refuses to halt same-sex marriages in Wisconsin

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Responding to an emergency request from the Wisconsin’s Attorney General to stop clerks from issuing marriage licences to gay couples, a federal judge has for now refused to do so.

US District Judge Barbara Crabb struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban on Friday, and did not stay her own ruling, allowing same-sex couples to marry immediately.

However, Republican Attorney General J B Van Hollen asked Judge Crabb to stay her own ruling to stop gay and lesbian couples from marrying in the state.

Responding to the emergency request, Judge Crabb scheduled a 1pm hearing on Monday.

During the hearing, Judge Crabb said at least for now, county clerks could make up their own minds as to whether they should issue marriage licences to same-sex couples. She did indicate that it is likely that she, or a federal appeals court, may issue a stay in coming days.

Setting her next hearing for 19 June, Judge Crabb said she wanted to leave in place the “status quo”, and hear more from both sides in the debate.

“I will consider a stay as to what’s in the [final order,] but I’m not going to act today,” she said.

When asked about the situation where some counties are issuing marriage licences and others aren’t, she said it was not up to her to decide.

“They did not act because I told them they could,” she said of county clerks. “That hasn’t been decided.”

Some county clerks took from the hearing that what Judge Crabb meant by the “status quo” was to continue issuing same-sex marriage licences.

Van Hollen has also now asked the federal 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to stay the ruling, which could issue a stay to halt the licencing of same-sex marriages in the state.

The Attorney General issued a statement saying: “The US Supreme Court will almost certainly decide this important issue once and for all during its next term. There is absolutely no reason to allow Wisconsin’s county clerks to decide for themselves, on a county-by-county basis, who may and may not lawfully get married in this state.”