MILWAUKEE, WIS. (AP) – Dozens of gay couples got married at courthouses in Milwaukee and Madison early Saturday, taking advantage of what may be a small window in which to get hitched before the state’s same-sex marriage ban is reinstated, at least temporarily.
Milwaukee County Clerk Joe Czarnezki said couples were lined up outside his courthouse at 6 a.m., three hours before it opened. Within 30 minutes of opening, about 45 couples had applied for marriage licenses.
More than 120 couples married in Milwaukee and Madison on Friday night. The Dane County Clerk’s office said it had issued 30 licenses by 11 a.m. Saturday and would remain open until 5 p.m. The Milwaukee County Clerk’s office closed at 1 p.m.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb issued her ruling Friday afternoon just as the gay festival PrideFest was starting in Milwaukee. Many couples who married Saturday morning said they had elected to attend the festival the night before since they already had plans with friends. Then they got up early and went to the courthouse.
Craig Cook and Marshall Draper arrived about 8:30 a.m. and found nearly two dozen couples in line ahead of them. Cook, 43, said he and others had been hoping Crabb would make a decision in time for PrideFest. He and Marshall planned to go back to the festival Saturday after being married by a Unitarian minister outside the courthouse.
“Had this been legal, we probably would have done this 20 years ago,” Cook said. He said he and Marshall would likely have a reception in a few weeks, but “this was as formal a wedding as I’ve ever wanted.”
Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen asked Crabb on Friday to issue an emergency stay halting the issuing of further marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He was expected to petition a federal appeals court for a similar order on Monday.
“My heart`s beating a hundred miles-an-hour, for real. The line is so long, way back there. There`s so many supporters. So many people, we`ve been waiting a long time for this, here in Wisconsin,” said Michelle Lipsco as she waited in line for a marriage license with her partner.
A few protesters turned out too, offering up signs of their opposition to same-sex marriages.
The rush to the alter for some is also propelled by the actions of the state’s attorney general to bring these marriages to an end.
The protest did not prevent the matrimonial march inside the courthouse once the doors opened.
“There were people who protested when women got the right to vote. There were people who protested the Equal Rights Amendment. There were people who protested the Civil Rights Act,” said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.
Sixty-eight marriage licenses were issued Friday and another 78 Saturday in Milwaukee County. One went to Reverend Erik Koepnick, who Friday presided over the state’s first gay marriage.
Koepnick was one of the many who got married Saturday thanks in part to the overtime effort being put in by courthouse staff. The county executive even offering to pay the added cost if necessary.
“What I said is, `Look, I`ll cover whatever we need to, that`s not in the budget, already.` I mean, the worst reason to not be able to get married, after 30 years, is, in this case, cost,” said Abele.
A similar rush to say “I do” took place in Dane County, where the clerk’s office issued 129 marriage licenses in the past 24 hours primarily to same sex couples.