Wisconsin Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen is warning clerks that they can be prosecuted for issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, even though a federal judge has declared the state’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional.
Van Hollen, a Republican, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper that gay couples who have married since U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb issued her ruling last week aren’t legally married and district attorneys could opt to charge county clerks who issued them licenses with a crime.
“That’s going to be up to district attorneys, not me,” Van Hollen said. “There are penalties within our marriage code, within our statues, and hopefully they’re acting with full awareness of what’s contained therein. … You do have many people in Wisconsin basically taking the law into their own hands, and there can be legal repercussions for that.”
Clerks began issuing licenses June 6, hours after Crabb’s ruling came out. As of Thursday, 60 of the state’s 72 counties were issuing licenses.
But confusion has swirled about what clerks can legally do. Crabb declared the ban unconstitutional but did not issue any orders telling clerks to issue licenses. Van Hollen maintains that without such an order the ban remains in place.
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