Watching & waiting: Lifting the same-sex marriage ban, is Wis. next?

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The Badger State is one of a dozen states where the ACLU filed lawsuits to overturn bans on same-sex marriage.

So far this week, judges in two states did just that -- declaring the bans unconstitutional. The Milwaukee couples named in the lawsuit say there's a sense of momentum, and they're speaking out.

Two Milwaukee couples are plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

"It's about time people stay out of our business," said Marie Carlson, plaintiff.

Marie Carlson and Charvonne Kemp have been in a committed relationship for nearly a decade.

"What am I? A triple threat? A quadruple threat? Because I'm left handed, female, black, and a lesbian? I got it all," said Kemp, plaintiff.

The couple has two sons, and consider themselves married.

"June 18. It'll be 8 years," said Carlson. "We live our lives as if we're married, from the way our household is set up, our finances, how we do everything as a couple."

But, the state of Wisconsin doesn't recognize their relationship.

"To tell me I can't marry the person I love, it hurts, because it's like what did I do wrong?" said Kemp.

In 2006, Wisconsin voters passed a constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage in the state.

"We're not talking about a statute that was put in place by the legislature, we're talking about a referendum that went to the people of this state to vote on," said Julaine Appling, Wisconsin Family Action.

But the lawsuit alleges that the state ban violates the United States Constitution -- Specifically, the 14th amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law.

"I don't feel equal protection. I never have. That's kind of what we're fighting for," said Roy Badger, plaintiff.

Roy Badger and Garth Wangemann are the other Milwaukee couple suing for the right to marry. They met as students at UWM, and 37 years later, they're still together. Wangemann says the 14th amendment isn't protecting him.

"Until Wisconsin overturns this, it doesn't mean much of anything," said Wangemann.

After a week in which two state bans have fallen, Governor Scott Walker conceded that the Wisconsin ban could be next.

"It may end up on the same route that we've seen in other states elsewhere around the country," said Walker.

His opponent, Mary Burke, is a vocal supporter of same-sex marriage.

"I feel that people should have the freedom to marry who they choose," said Burke.

As political and public opinion shift toward acceptance, the Milwaukee couples say they're hopeful the lawsuit prevails.

"Suddenly, there's hope, as state-by-state start to overturn their constitutional amendment, that yes, this is legal, there's hope," said Badger.

"We have an opportunity not just to make history, but to make it right for us," said Carlson.

In the last few months, judges have struck down same-sex bans in several states; Arkansas, Idaho, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, and on Monday May 19th Oregon, and then Pennsylvania on Tuesday.

The plaintiffs in the Wisconsin case say a decision could come in the next few weeks.

CLICK HERE if you'd like to read the entire lawsuit filed on behalf of two same-sex couples in Wisconsin.

For a look at the status of gay marriage laws across the country, we invite you to CLICK HERE -- and navigate an interactive map supported by Freedom to Marry, a group that  partners with individuals and organizations across the country to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage and the protections, responsibilities, and commitment that marriage brings.

4 comments

  • Opinion8d

    “It’s about time people stay out of our business,” said Marie Carlson, plaintiff. ” – interesting…..isn’t she the one bringing everyone into her business???

  • ajstor

    In fact, no. You are, in fact, so deep in her business, that you would like to make it impossible for her to marry her partner of eight years. You are so deep in her business that you are forcing couples like this to pay tens of thousands in legal fees to approximate the rights they would have for a pittance with a marriage license.

    Gods I hope Wisconsin is next.

  • jbrewski

    In fact you’re wrong. I don’t care what she does behind closed doors, and I don’t want it in my face. “Forcing couples…to pay tens of thousands in legal fees”……no, I think not. what legal fees have they paid? The ACLU is picking up this tab. they are just the pawns needed to file suit.

  • jbrewski

    “Because I’m left handed, female, black, and a lesbian? I got it all,” Yes, and that’s exactly why the ACLU picked you. Minority in so many perfect ways; any opposition can be perfectly smeared as anti-lefty, anti-women, racist and homophobic all in one sentence. Funny you don’t see it, considering how obvious a tactic it is.

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