Wisconsin vital records office holding, but not processing, same-sex marriage licenses
The Wisconsin Vital Records Office is holding, but not processing, the marriage licenses of gay couples who married after the state's same-sex marriage ban was overturned on Friday, a spokeswoman for the office said Tuesday.
The Wisconsin Vital Records Office is holding, but not processing, the marriage licenses of gay couples who married after the state’s same-sex marriage ban was overturned on Friday, a spokeswoman for the office said Tuesday.
Jennifer Miller said it isn’t filing the licenses because it hasn’t received guidance from Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen on what to do with them.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled Friday that the state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. As of Tuesday afternoon at least 49 of the state’s 72 counties - a few more than a day earlier - were issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Van Hollen is appealing the decision and has said the ban remains in force.
But he hasn’t told the state records office, which is part of the state Department of Health Services, how it should handle licenses, Miller said.
Van Hollen’s spokeswoman, Dana Brueck, said in a statement that the Attorney General’s Office has contacted Vital Records, but she wouldn’t say what, if any, advice was given.
“We have been in touch with Health Services; however, whatever we may advise is attorney-client privilege,” Brueck said.
Miller said she didn’t know how many licenses had been delivered to the office.
“None are being rejected,” Miller said. “They are just being held.”
Whether or not the state office files the records, a couple is married as soon as a ceremony is held and the marriage license is completed by a wedding officiant and signed by two witnesses, Dane County Register of Deeds Kristi Chlebowski said.
Married people may obtain copies of their licenses from the county where they were married or from the state office, she said.
Dane and Milwaukee counties have been issuing marriage licenses to gay couples since Friday.
Dozens of other county clerks followed suit on Monday and Tuesday after consulting with county attorneys.
Chlebowski said the state records office employee who normally accepts marriage licenses for processing declined to take five same-sex licenses on Monday.
“He did not want them,” Chlebowski said. “They didn’t know what do with them.” Chlebowski said eventually another worker accepted the licenses.
Miller said she hadn’t heard about any employees refusing to accept licenses from county clerks.
Chlebowski said that on Monday after conferring with County Executive Joe Parisi, she brought five licenses to the state office to test how the agency would respond.
“Since this was a unique circumstance, the county executive wanted to see how it would go,” Chlebowski said.
Usually, a county courier delivers marriage licenses to the state office after they’ve been scanned into county computers, she said.
Some county clerks have said they are not issuing licenses to same-sex couples because they have not received instructions from the state records office. Others are consulting with county attorneys.
The federal judge’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed against state and county officials. The plaintiff’s attorneys have asked the judge to order the officials - including Gov. Scott Walker, Van Hollen and Oskar Anderson, the state Department of Health Services employee who oversees the Vital Records Office, to stop enforcing the gay marriage ban and to ensure that gay couples are able to marry and receive all the state rights afforded to opposite sex couples.