U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb, one week after striking down Wisconsin’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, ordered Friday all same-sex marriages be halted until a higher court rules on the issue.
“I understand that there has been much confusion among county clerks regarding the legal effect of the declaration [striking down the ban on same-sex marriage],” Crabb said in her decision and order. “To avoid further confusion among the clerks, I will issue a stay of all relief.”
Crabb’s decision to strike down the ban a week ago in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union did not include an order that county clerks could issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, leaving the decision to do so up to the clerks themselves. As of Thursday evening, all but 12 Wisconsin county clerks were issuing licenses to same-sex couples, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
Crabb said her Friday decision did not come easily.
“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, but added she felt compelled by legal precedent to issue the stay anyway.
State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen had requested a stay several times before Friday, citing clerical confusion as an unfair consequence of Crabb’s decision. Earlier this week, he filed an appeal of Crabb’s decision with a higher court.
“The state and all of its agencies and subdivisions must follow and enforce Wisconsin’s marriage law,” Van Hollen said in a statement Friday. “County clerks do not have authority under Wisconsin law to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Judge Crabb’s stay makes this abundantly clear.”
ACLU Staff Attorney John Knight said in a statement his organization remains committed to a quick legal solution to the issue.
“In light of the stay, we will do everything we can to expedite the case for a quick ruling on appeal,” Knight said. “This is about basic liberty and equality for people who are being harmed daily by laws which deny them and their families the same basic protections and respect that other couples take for granted.”
Van Hollen said he expects the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the issue in its next term, which begins Oct. 1.