Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Wisconsin's Same-Sex Marriage Ban

U.S. Appeals Court in Chicago ruled unanimously Thursday that the same-sex marriage bans in both Wisconsin and Indiana are unconstitutional.

Couple getting married in Milwaukee in June 2014.
Couple getting married in Milwaukee in June 2014.
Credit Tracy Apps, Flickr

The decision means that gay marriage is now legal in 21 states.

In 2006, Wisconsin voters approved a constitutional amendment, declaring marriage as between one man and one woman.

This June, Federal Judge Barbara Crabb in Madison declared the amendment to be unconstitutional. Immediately afterward, hundreds of same-sex couples rushed to clerks' offices across Wisconsin to marry. The Milwaukee County Courthouse extended hours to accommodate demand.

A few days later, Crabb stayed her ruling - she let Wisconsin resume enforcing its ban, while federal appeals court reviewed her decision. The judges combined the case with a similar one, out of Indiana.

During oral arguments before the appeals court in August, Judge Richard Posner compared the marriage bans to laws that once barred interracial marriage. The top attorneys of both states argued that the bans were designed to protect traditional marriage.

The latest ruling at the appeals level may be yet another indication that the issue will wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court. In fact, within an hour of the appeals court announcement Thursday, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced that he will appeal to the country's highest court.

Van Hollen's term expires at the end of the year; he is not running for re-election.

The Rev. Suzelle Lynch is one of the same-sex marriage advocates who were delighted by Thursday’s ruling. She’s with Unitarian Universalist Church West in Brookfield.

Lynch stood outside courthouses in June to marry gay and lesbian couples, during the one week when same-sex marriages were allowed. We reached her on Thursday, shortly after the court's decision became public.