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Superior's first same-sex wedding celebrated

Alvin Berg (left) says "I do" to Vince Nelson during their wedding ceremony at the Flame Nightclub in Superior Monday afternoon. At left is Berg's daughter Chastity Lindquist; at right is Nelson's mother Rose Nelson. Bob King /

For one Superior couple, a window of opportunity Monday meant the end of a 30-year wait.

“I’m the wife,” said Vince Nelson, a tall man with sharp features who confessed to being the introvert to his husband Alvin Berg’s extrovert.

The long-term couple was married in the business they own together — the Flame Nightclub — Monday afternoon.

The club’s dancing lights rotated slowly on the floor around them. They rushed their Douglas County-issued marriage license back to the courthouse afterward. Their plan was to beat a potential ruling on Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s request to halt, at least temporarily, the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb on Friday ruled that Wisconsin's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. On Monday she denied Van Hollen's request for a stay while the state appeals her earlier ruling.

Van Hollen also on Monday asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to halt gay marriages in Wisconsin until appeals are concluded.

Until then, Van Hollen said in a statement, Wisconsin's ban on gay marriage remains in effect and state and local officials are under a continuing duty to follow the marriage law unless and until the court overturns that law. Crabb's rulings have not addressed directly whether county clerks may issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the interim.

"I understand defendants' concern that some county clerks have been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples since I issued the June 6 decision, but that is not a result of an injunction by this court," Crabb wrote.

Clerks in counties around the state have taken different positions on whether or not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Nelson and Berg were the first same-sex couple to get a marriage license in Douglas County.

“To me it’s about discrimination,” Nelson said. “I love who I want to love. I’m not hurting anybody.”

Hundreds of same-sex couples got married in Dane and Milwaukee counties during the weekend following Friday's court ruling.

After Crabb issued her ruling on Friday night, people lined up at Madison’s City-County Building to get married outside on the front steps.

Tina Cady and Cody Houston each wore white wedding dresses when they got married on Saturday morning. Cady said she couldn’t believe it happened.

“People have just come down to be part of the moment who we don’t know and don’t know anyone here. It’s almost giddy, the atmosphere, for everyone,” Cady said.

Cady said they knew they wanted to get to the county clerk’s office as soon as possible when they heard about the ruling.

“We want to have a religious ceremony with our family, but in other states, it’s like somewhere usually between a day or a couple (of) days and then it gets stayed. So, we wanted to make sure we could get in while we still had the chance,” Cady said.

Dane County Clerk Scott  McDonell, who made the call to start issuing marriage licenses, said he had hoped Crabb would instruct clerks on how to proceed. But  McDonell said once he read Crabb’s ruling, it was an easy call.

“She left it to us to decide, and to me, it was obvious what we should do,”  McDonellsaid.

Van Hollen had a decidedly different take on the implications the ruling, which he spelled out in his emergency court motion. Whatever happens in Crabb’s courtroom, Van Hollen promised an appeal.

Wisconsin Public Radio contributed to this report and can be heard in the Twin Ports at 91.3 FM or online at Reuters also contributed to this report.