MILWAUKEE (AP) — Garth Wangemann dreamed of marrying his partner, Roy Badger, on their 30th anniversary together — but just six weeks ago acknowledged it was a faint hope as the two waited to see whether the U.S. Supreme Court would legalize same-sex marriage. On Monday, the court granted Wangemann's wish, rejecting appeals from Wisconsin and four other states seeking to prohibit gay marriage.
"I'm online right now, looking at invitations," Wangemann said about an hour after the court's decision was announced. "I did that previously, I don't know, maybe a month or two ago, and I bookmarked all the ones that I thought were obtainable. Ideally, what I'd like is to have a very small church wedding. I'd like us both to be wearing tuxes."
Badger and Wangemann were among eight Wisconsin couples who sued to overturn the state's ban on gay marriage. Hundreds of other couples married in June before a federal judge's decision declaring the ban unconstitutional was put on hold, but none of the plaintiffs did. They were determined to wait until the matter was settled once and for all. On Monday, they celebrated a victory few had expected to come so fast.
"We're happy with the result because that means we won," said Katy Heyning of Madison, who had sued with her partner, Judi Trampf. "I'm glad it is settled in Wisconsin. I wish it was settled across the United States."
Nearly everyone involved in the lawsuit, along with public officials and a cadre of legal experts, had expected the Supreme Court to accept one or more of the appeals before it, and issue a ruling sometime next year. The court's surprise decision to let stand lower court rulings legalizing same-sex marriage in certain states set off a scramble in Wisconsin among court clerks trying to figure out how to respond.
Clerks in Milwaukee and Madison said within an hour that they would begin issuing licenses to any same-sex couple who wanted one and had the appropriate documents.
"My plan is to issue marriage licenses to everyone — same-sex, opposite-sex — immediately," Milwaukee County Clerk Joseph Czarnezki said.
His office and others had extended their hours in June so that couples could marry before Judge Barbara Crabb's decision legalizing gay marriage was put on hold. Czarnezki said he didn't see a need for that this time.
"There's very little chance that this could be overturned, unless we have a circuit court say somewhere that gay marriage isn't legal, and the Supreme Court decides to hear that case," he said, adding, "I think people can take their time and rest assured that this will be the law throughout the country."