Outagamie Co. to refund marriage license fee

APPLETON – A protest is paying off. Some same-sex couples in Outagamie County will be reimbursed the money they paid for marriage licenses.

Monday was supposed to be the big day for the couples to get married. The plans were made after a federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s ban on gay marriage on June 6.

Outagamie County’s clerk then started issuing marriage licenses; however, the licenses came with a five-day waiting period.

Then on Friday, the same judge who struck down the ban put her decision on hold.

Supporters of same-sex marriages say getting a refund Monday was a success. They say it’s another step toward their goal of marriage equality.

Artie Alan of Appleton was hoping for good news Monday morning.

“Right now we’re disappointed,” said Alan.

Alan and his partner Joshua were just dozens of people who showed up to protest at the Outagamie County Courthouse early Monday morning. They were supposed to get married.

Since marriage wasn’t an option, they were hoping for a full refund on their marriage license fee. Initially the county told couples they would only get a portion refunded.

“I think it’s only fair for the county to receive some remuneration for the amount of time we’ve had to do with applying for this,” said Outagamie County Clerk Lori O’Bright.

“You want the whole amount. Why the whole amount? Does money really make a difference?” asked FOX 11’s Pauleen Le.

“The money is useless, I mean not useless, but it’s unimportant, it’s just 100 bucks. It is largely symbolic because our county clerk when she started accepting those marriage applications chose not to wave a five-day waiting period,” said Alan.

In the last few years, the Outagamie County clerk says only two or three couples have ever asked for their money back, but only the state portion has been refunded. The county keeps its portion for services rendered.

In the end, County Executive Tom Nelson stepped in and offered to pay the county’s portion of the refund from his budget.

“So from the county executive’s budget, we just won’t spend those dollars. Instead we’ll be dedicating those dollars to pay for a refund for those applications,” said Nelson.

While the full refund is good news, Alan says the fight isn’t over yet.

“Those refunds are a very very small consolation prize to me being able to spend the rest of my life with the man I love and until I have that, I’m not going to stop,” said Alan.

The county executive says he will issue up to $1,200 in refunds. The money comes from a fund that goes toward a wide variety of things, including studies and property assessments.

Couples also have the option to keep their application on file in the hopes the hold will be lifted.

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