John M. Becker

WI's Largest Counties Prepare for Possible Same-Sex Marriages

Filed By John M. Becker | May 30, 2014 9:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: gay marriage, J.B. Van Hollen, lawsuit, Madison, marriage discrimination, marriage equality, Milwaukee, same-sex marriage, Wisconsin

wisconsin-marriage-grumpy-cat.jpgRecent comments from Wisconsin's Republican attorney general, J.B. Van Hollen -- who said last week that he expects the state's marriage discrimination amendment to be overturned in court, and soon -- have officials in the state's two largest counties scrambling to prepare for what they say could be a flood of same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses.

Scott McDonell is clerk of Dane County -- the second most populous county in the state, home of the capital city of Madison, and the epicenter of Wisconsin progressivism. He estimates that if the Badger State's marriage ban falls, his office will see between 200 and 300 same-sex couples apply for licenses in the first 48 hours alone.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports:

"'We would not be able to handle it with our current staffing,' McDonell said Wednesday.

"McDonell said he cranked his planning into high gear on Friday after Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen indicated publicly that he expected the state to become the latest to see a gay marriage ban fall to a court challenge.

"'We've been thinking about it for a while,' McDonell said. 'After that sort of capitulation from the AG's office, it did sort of kick us into saying we need to have everything worked out.'

"McDonell said he has talked with judges and court commissioners about being available to perform ceremonies immediately, and for the register of deeds and clerk of courts offices to be prepared for a large number of requests for birth certificates and divorce papers couples will need."

Wisconsin law requires that a couple wait a minimum of six days between the time they're issued a marriage license and the time the marriage takes place, but that waiting period can be waived for an additional fee in extenuating circumstances. McDonnell tells the Journal that he would consider the fall of the marriage ban to be just such a circumstance, and says he's prepared to open his office as soon as humanly possible in the event of a pro-equality court ruling.

"[I]f the ban is overturned on a Friday, he'll extend his office hours into the weekend. 'My attitude is as soon as I get the word, it's first come, first served,' McDonell said. 'We're not waiting. If somebody is elderly and it's hard for them to wait in line all day, we'll move them up. If the plaintiffs (from the lawsuit) show up, we'd probably help them to the front.'"

gay-wisconsin-flag.gifIn Milwaukee County -- the state's largest by far -- the clerk also expects a surge in demand and says that he, too, is making preparations:

"Milwaukee County Clerk Joseph J. Czarnezki said he has made arrangements similar to those McDonell discussed, although it's not clear if the courthouse there will remain open extra hours.

"Czarnezki said that in some Republican-leaning counties, clerks may not be as enthusiastic as he and McDonell are, but he said he doubted any county would make it difficult for same-sex couples.

"'There are some who may not agree that the law should be overturned, but I've had conversations talking to clerks of both parties and I think everyone will treat this group the same as opposite-sex couples are treated,' Czarnezki said."

So take note, same-sex couples in the Badger State: if U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb rules, as every judge has since the Supreme Court's Windsor decision last year, that Wisconsin's marriage discrimination amendment violates the United States Constitution, you'll be able to marry immediately in Madison -- and likely Milwaukee too (provided she doesn't stay her ruling, of course).

Forward!

Wisconsin Grumpy Cat image created by Richard Hawkins, shared via Facebook.


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