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ACLU Sues, Seeking Freedom to Marry for Same-Sex WI Couples

The ACLU has filed a case in federal court in Madison seeking recognition for legal out-of-state marriages for Wisconsin same-sex couples. (Logo provided by ACLU)
The ACLU has filed a case in federal court in Madison seeking recognition for legal out-of-state marriages for Wisconsin same-sex couples. (Logo provided by ACLU)
February 4, 2014

MADISON, Wis. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin has filed suit on behalf of four same-sex Wisconsin couples that want their legal out-of-state marriages to be recognized.

One of the four plaintiffs is a couple that has been together for 37 years.

Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation, says the clock is ticking for these couples to achieve recognition for their legal union in another state.

"These are people who have waited their whole lives to get married, same-sex couples,” he stresses. “And some of them are older or may be sick and facing concerns about how much longer they have.

“We just feel like it's not fair to continue to hold off on that."

The suit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin in Madison.

Among other things, the suit says Wisconsin's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage sends the message that lesbians, gay men and their children are viewed as second-class citizens.

An amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage or anything similar to gay marriage was passed in 2006.

Dupuis says this suit does not seek special rights or recognition of any kind.

"Four couples in our case and the plaintiffs around the country are just seeking the same recognition for their marriages as straight couples have enjoyed since the beginning of the republic, so this is not special rights at all,” he points out. “It's equal rights."

The only way for Wisconsin couples to get the federal protections that come with marriage is for them to go out of the state to marry.

But Dupuis says Wisconsin law actually makes that a crime punishable by nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine.

He says that provision of the law has never been tested, but it has a chilling effect nonetheless.



Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI