MILWAUKEE (AP) — Supporters blew bubbles and held up signs in support of gay marriage Monday as same-sex couples boarded a bus for Chicago to listen to oral arguments before a federal appeals court.
The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has scheduled arguments for Tuesday in the state's appeal of a federal judge's June decision overturning Wisconsin's ban on gay marriage. The appeals court has combined Wisconsin's case with three from Indiana.
Couples and their supporters rallied in support of gay marriage Monday in Milwaukee, Indianapolis and other cities before boarding buses to Chicago, where they planned to attend an evening rally and then line up early Tuesday morning to get seats in the courtroom.
Rachel McGraw, a 36-year-old doctoral student, joined the caravan at the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, where several dozen people gathered for a send-off party. McGraw said she was going to Chicago because "it's just the right thing to do."
"There's no kind of compelling story in my background," she said, explaining that she is married to an older man and no one in her immediate family is gay. But, she said, "It seems like a no brainer to me. Everyone should have freedom to marry."
Before leaving, McGraw and others heard from Garth Wangemann, 58, and Roy Badger, 57, one of the couples who sued for the right to marry. They bought cheap, gold-colored rings at a department store years ago. At the time, Wangemann said, gay marriage "seemed as remote as me winning an Academy Award."
They have not yet married, even though more than 500 couples did during a brief window between the judge's decision and when it was put on hold. Instead, they are waiting for the day when they know Wisconsin will recognize the ceremony.
"We want to get married in our own state and just have everything above water," Wangemann said in an interview last week.
He and Badger did not go to Chicago, but six other couples involved in the lawsuit did. The eighth couple named in the lawsuit, Johannes Wallmann and Keith Borden, spoke at a rally in Madison before the bus left there. A third stop and rally took place in Racine.
U.S. Attorney James Santelle, the top federal prosecutor in eastern Wisconsin, told those gathered in Milwaukee that he and the Obama administration support them in their quest to legalize gay marriage.
"I wish you God speed as you travel," Santelle said, "and come back here and know the federal government, the United States Department of Justice is with you in this effort and supports equality and the good things the 14th Amendment and the entire Constitution guarantee for all of us in this great United States of America."