Domestic Partnerships &
Same-Sex Marriages (SSMs) in Wisconsin
Part 4: 2014-JUN:
State begins to register SSMs.
Blowing off steam department: [Webmaster's comments. Bias alert]:
The author of this essay posted a comment on Gilbert's article, saying:
"There is a deep division between liberals and conservatives about the basic nature of government. Most conservatives seem to believe that the U.S. is a pure democracy. i.e. whatever the pubic votes in favor of is the law of the land. Thus, Referendum 1 which banned same-sex marriage in Wisconsin is still valid no matter what any courts say. This remains true even if polls show that voters have reversed their stand and now strongly support same-sex marriage by a margin of 18 percentage points.
Meanwhile, most liberals seem to believe that the U.S. is a constitutional democracy. i.e. whatever the U.S. Constitution says ultimately determines the law of the land. The due process and equal protection clauses in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution require states to treat individuals equally. Thus, as over a dozen federal District Courts and state courts across the U.S. have recently decided, if a state allows opposite-sex couples to marry, it must allow same-sex couples to have the same right. Liberals also generally believe that it is a major role of the courts to decide whether laws and state constitutional amendments are constitutional.
I wish that there was some way to harmonize these beliefs via dialogue. But it is not happening.
While your report of the increasing support for marriage equality is interesting, it seems to miss one basic point. In a constitutional democracy, it doesn't matter one iota what percentage of the population favors giving basic human rights to a minority. Human rights are not given to or withdrawn from minorities on the basis of majority opinion. That is called the 'tyranny of the majority' and was a major concern of the founders of the U.S.
While I am in a complaining mode, I have a suggestion: that the Journal Sentinel refrain from using the term 'gay marriage' and use 'same-sex marriage' instead. Some same-sex couples who want to marry include one or even two bisexuals, who are neither gay nor lesbian. 'Same-sex marriage' is the more inclusive and accurate term." 2
2014-JUN-11: State begins to register marriages of same-sex couples:
On Wednesday, five days after the District Court's ruling on the previous Friday, Governor Scott Walker's administration reversed its course and started to register marriage certificates from same-sex couples, apparently in the same way that they handle certificates from opposite-sex couples. 3
Stephanie Smiley, a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services said that:
"The Wisconsin Department of Health Services Office of Vital Records will fulfill all administrative duties required with regard to registering vital records. Once there is an ultimate decision made on this issue, the responsibility will be on individuals to make any necessary changes to their record."
Most county clerks in Wisconsin are now issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. However the long-term status of these marriages remain in doubt pending future decisions of the District Court and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The same-sex married couples may eventually be forcibly divorced by the state.
Judge Crabb scheduled a hearing for the afternoon JUN-13 to resolve outstanding issues.
2014-JUN-12: State senator criticizes Governor Scott Walker's (R) decisions:
State Sen. Glenn Grothman (R) criticized Walker's administration for its decision to record marriage certificates from same-sex couples after their marriages had been solemnized. He said:
"Our country is declining on an almost daily basis. The Office of Vital Records has no business participating in legitimizing illegal and immoral marriages."
Stephanie Smiley, a spokesperson for State Health Services, the group that records marriages in the state, said:
"The state Office of Vital Records is responsible for performing administrative duties of registering, maintaining and preserving records. The decision was made, in consultation with DOJ [the Department of Justice,] to continue to perform our administrative duties." 4
By the early morning of JUN-13, the Journal Sentinel article from which the above was taken received 20 comment from readers. Most expressed negative views towards Senator Grothman's opinion:
- "JsMon46" posted: "... Yep, a couple hundred loving and committed individuals getting married represents the decline of our country. How come I didn't hear him say that this week after a 15 year old walked into yet another school campus armed to the max with an assault rifle, semi-automatic handgun, and hundreds of rounds of ammo and killed yet another innocent kid?"
- "mollyyjb" posted: "Apparently Grothman, who is running for Congress, does not support or believe in the US Constitution. Glenn apparently is not aware of the 14th amendment to the US constitution.
There is no way Grothman should be elected to Congress given his stance on same sex marriage while ignoring the US constitution."
- "musky2musky" posted: "I expect the Senator will still be alive in another year or two to see the realization of the words 'equality for all.' He is sad man." 4
2014-JUN-12: Governor Walker seems to have stopped explaining his position on SSM:
Governor Scott Walker had always been very clear in his opposition to marriage equality. He opposed extending health care benefits to same-sex partners of Milwaukee County employees. He supported Amendment 1 which banned same-sex marriage and civil unions. He opposed allowing same-sex couples from receiving certain benefits, like hospital visitation privileges.
However, during an interview on JUN-12, he suddenly took the position that his beliefs about SSM are no longer relevant. He said:
"It really doesn't matter what I think now. It's in the constitution." 5
Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to have specified to which constitution he referred -- Wisconsin's constitution or the federal constitution.
2014-JUN-12: Attorney General takes a definite stand:
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen stated that same-sex couples who recently obtained a marriage license, solemnized their marriage, and saw the state register their marriage are not really married in the eyes of the law. He said:
"You do have many people in Wisconsin basically taking the law into their own hands and there can be legal repercussions for that. So, depending on who believes they're married under the law and who doesn't believe they're married under the law may cause them to get themselves in some legal problems that I think are going to take years for them and the courts to work out." 6
Van Hollen said that he did not believe that married same-sex couples could be prosecuted. However, there is a law that can send a county clerk to jail for 9 months and fine them up to $10,000 if they issue any marriage licenses that are not allowed under state law.
He said that:
"Constitutions don't defend themselves. They're not worth the paper they're written on if someone does not defend what's in there. ... My primary oath and obligation that I have as attorney general above all else is to defend our constitution, above our laws, above everything else.
"It's actually quite a simple concept that people are either intentionally confusing, don't want to understand, or really haven't gotten the message." 6
Scott McDonell (D) clerk of Dane County says that the possibility that he might be prosecuted:
"... doesn't keep me up at night. ... He needs to call off the dogs and turn off the fire hoses."
The latter part of his comment appears to be a reference to attacks by the police on public protests against Jim Crow laws in the 1950's.
A count by Associated Press indicated that 60 out of the 72 county clerks in Wisconsin were issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The following information source was used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.
- Jason Stein, et al., "Federal judge overturns Wisconsin's gay marriage ban," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2014-JUN-07, at: http://www.jsonline.com/
- Craig Gilbert, "County decisions reflecting shifting politics of gay marriage," Journal Sentinel, 2014-JUN-11, at: http://www.jsonline.com/
- Jason Stein & Patrick Marley, "State changes course, says it is processing gay marriage paperwork," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2014-JUN-11, at: http://www.jsonline.com/
- Jason Stein, "Sen. Glenn Grothman criticizes state for taking gay marriage licenses," Journal Sentinel, 2014-JUN-12, at: http://www.jsonline.com/
- Daniel Bice, "Scott Walker declines to define stand on gay marriage today," Journal Sentinel, 2014-JUN-12, at: http://www.jsonline.com/
- Patrick Marley & Dana Ferguson, "Van Hollen: Clerks issuing licenses to gay couples could be charged," 2014-JUN-12, at: http://www.jsonline.com/
First posted: 2014-JUN-12
Latest update: 2014-JUN-14
Author: B.A. Robinson