RIVER FALLS, WI – Courthouses across Wisconsin are bracing for a busy week after a federal judge struck down the state's gay marriage ban.
Wanda Brown and Phyllis Goldin, of River Falls, have been together 40 years and married 10 years ago in Canada. For the first time their union is recognized in Wisconsin, and tomorrow the couple plans to ask the Pierce County Clerk for guidance in how to process the paperwork from their Canadian marriage.
"Right now we are in the amazing situation of being totally legal here in Wisconsin," said Goldin. "After being strangers in the eyes of the law for all these years, we are strangers no more. We are next of kin and it is an amazing feeling. We are already married, so we are already legal, and the question is whether somehow, something will come up."
Hundreds of couples married this weekend as county clerks in Milwaukee and Madison have kept their offices open to issue licenses to couples who want to marry before an expected hold is placed on the judge's decision.
"We are having conversations with couples who are friends, several of them who will marry as fast as they can. Some are quite old and frail and have been together many decades and feel a certain urgency about marriage," said Brown.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb's ruling late Friday afternoon found the ban unconstitutional.But she also asked the gay couples who sued to describe exactly what they wanted her to block in the law. She said she would later decide whether to put her decision on hold while it is appealed.
Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen insists the ruling did not clear the way for weddings to begin. Van Hollen has sought an emergency order in federal court to stop more marriage licenses from being issued.
"We will continue to defend the constitutionality of our traditional marriage laws and the constitutional amendment, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters," said Van Hollen.
Even if it's not a final decision, LGBT advocates cheered Friday's ruling on Wisconsin, and Brown and Goldin believe this decision is the "beginning of the end" when it comes to the fight for equal marriage in the state they call home.
"And now it looks like we are going to be able to stay," said Goldin. "You can't be 15 minutes away fromanother state that has equal marriage and not have those protections, it just feels so strange, and now it feels like we are given back ourfirst class citizenship. We are second class citizens no more, at least not today."
Some Wisconsin counties are still waiting for state officials to tell them how to proceed with this federal ruling.