MADISON, Wis. — A federal judge on Friday put same-sex marriages in Wisconsin on hold, a week after she struck down the state's same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional, a move that allowed more than 500 couples to wed over the last eight days.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb's ruling Friday means that gay marriages will end while the appeal from Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is pending. Couples who were in the middle of the five-day waiting period to get a license, which most counties waived, are caught in limbo.
Van Hollen requested Crabb put her ruling on hold, arguing that allowing the marriages while the underlying case was pending created confusion about the legality of those marriages.
In her order, Crabb expressed mixed feelings.
"After seeing the expressions of joy on the faces of so many newly wedded couples featured in media reports, I find it difficult to impose a stay on the event that is responsible for eliciting that emotion, even if the stay is only temporary," Crabb said in her order. "Same-sex couples have waited many years to receive equal treatment under the law, so it is understandable that they do not want to wait any longer. However, a federal district court is required to follow the guidance provided by the Supreme Court."
The ruling came exactly one week after Crabb declared the state's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. But Crabb didn't issue any orders on how state officials were to implement her decision, and amid the uncertainty, nearly every Wisconsin county — 60 of 72 — issued licenses.
Crabb issued an order preventing clerks from denying same-sex couples marriage licenses, but then put that on hold as well as her earlier ruling striking down the law as unconstitutional.
John Knight, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the law, called Crabb's decision to put her order on hold disappointing.
"But we will fight for a quick resolution on appeal and are confident that marriage will be a reality in Wisconsin very soon for lesbian and gay couples who have waited much too long already," he said in an email.
Van Hollen said he was "very pleased" with the ruling.
"County clerks do not have authority under Wisconsin law to issue same-sex marriage licenses," he said in a statement. "Judge Crabb's stay makes this abundantly clear."
Van Hollen said he will appeal her ruling striking down the law to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court.