MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Gov. Scott Walker said Monday that hundreds of same-sex marriages performed in June will be recognized by the state, ending uncertainty for those couples and likely putting a stop to a federal lawsuit filed over the issue.
There had been questions over whether those marriages would be legally recognized, since they were performed during a week when the gay marriage ban was blocked only temporarily. Last week the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the ruling declaring the same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, meaning such marriages are legal going forward.
But the status of the June marriages remained unclear.
Walker’s office on Monday removed any doubt, issuing a statement saying the governor had directed state agencies to follow the law and update forms, manuals and other documents as needed to be consistent with the ruling. The release also said, “the state will be treating licenses issued in June as valid marriage licenses.”
Walker had said last week that the fight over gay marriage in Wisconsin was over, but he did not address the status of the June weddings.
The announcement Monday means couples married in June will receive a host of legal rights and benefits that marriage affords, including the ability to file joint tax returns and make medical decisions for one another.
The American Civil Liberties Union Wisconsin chapter filed a federal lawsuit last month on behalf of four same-sex couples who got married in June, saying they should be recognized as valid. More than 500 couples were married during the week when the ban was not in effect.
“We’re obviously pleased that the state will be recognizing our clients’ marriages and those of the other 500 who married in June,” said ACLU attorney Larry Dupuis. He said he hoped an agreement with the state could be reached quickly to end the lawsuit.
State Department of Justice spokeswoman Dana Brueck said Monday’s announcement makes the ACLU lawsuit moot.
Same-sex couples were able to marry during the brief window after U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb found the state’s 2006 ban to be unconstitutional, but before she put that ruling on hold pending the state’s appeal.
Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen had said that county clerks didn’t have the authority to issue the licenses and the legal status of the unions was uncertain.
Walker’s office said state agencies will work with the state Department of Justice to clarify other outstanding issues that may arise to ensure that the law is consistently applied.
Walker voted for the 2006 amendment banning same-sex marriage, but with polls showing the public now supporting gay marriage, and Walker locked in a tight re-election fight, he has been less outspoken on the issue and said he defended the law in court because he is committed to upholding the state’s constitution.