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Wisconsin same-sex marriage ban struck down

By Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 9:36 PM EDT, Fri June 6, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A federal judge strikes down Wisconsin's ban on same-sex marriage
  • She's the latest judge to do so; the Supreme Court could decide the case
  • Wisconsin's attorney general says the current law stands, he'll appeal ruling

(CNN) -- Wisconsin on Friday joined the growing number of states where federal judges have struck down same-sex marriage bans. The decision was cheered by lesbian and gay rights advocates, but it's not necessarily a final victory.

The Wisconsin ban violates the U.S. Constitution, said U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb. She said same-sex couples "are entitled to the same treatment as any heterosexual couple."

The Rev. Tony Larsen and his partner, Craig Matheus, are refused a marriage license by Racine County Clerk Wendy Christensen, right, in the clerk's office in Racine, Wisconsin, on Friday, June 13. The county does not grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite a judge's ruling that the state ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. The Rev. Tony Larsen and his partner, Craig Matheus, are refused a marriage license by Racine County Clerk Wendy Christensen, right, in the clerk's office in Racine, Wisconsin, on Friday, June 13. The county does not grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite a judge's ruling that the state ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.
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"I conclude that the Wisconsin laws prohibiting marriage between same-sex couples interfere with plaintiffs' right to marry, in violation of the due process clause, and discriminate against plaintiffs on the basis of sexual orientation, in violation of the (Constitution's) equal protection clause," the judge wrote.

Crabb did not immediately stay her own ruling, as some other federal judges issuing similar decisions have done, nor did she state that it takes effect right away.

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said the current law restricting marriage to one man and one woman, which is written into the Wisconsin state constitution, "remains in force."

"While today's decision is a setback, we'll continue to defend the constitutionality of our traditional marriage laws and the constitutional amendment, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters," Van Hollen said. "I will appeal."

Opinion: Marriage equality is unstoppable

In her ruling, Crabb noted that all federal judges weighing in on state same-sex marriage bans have come to the same conclusion -- that such prohibitions should not stand -- since the Supreme Court's landmark ruling on U.S. v. Winsdor last June.

That 5-4 opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, struck down the Defense of Marriage Act's definition of marriage as only between a man and a woman but did not directly affect individual states' laws restricting marriage based on sexual orientation. Yet many federal judges have cited the decision on United States v. Windsor in their judgments, as well as the argument that same-sex marriage bans violate the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Several appeals courts have heard arguments on some of the district court rulings that have been challenged, though none has come out with its own decision. Van Hollen said he expects "the U.S. Supreme Court will give finality to this issue in their next term."

Even if it's not a final decision, LGBT advocates cheered Friday's ruling on Wisconsin.

"Across the country, the courts agree: Same-sex couples and their families need the dignity of marriage, and anti-marriage laws are indefensible," said Evan Wolfson, president of the advocacy group Freedom to Marry.

"... Today's decision in Wisconsin underscores that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry. It's time now for the Supreme Court to bring resolution nationwide."

State-by-state breakdown on same-sex marriage

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