UPDATE: ACLU lawsuit challenges Wisconsin same-sex marriage ban - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UPDATE: ACLU lawsuit challenges Wisconsin same-sex marriage ban

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Four couples are challenging Wisconsin's same-sex marriage ban in federal court.

They are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, which announced the lawsuit against Governor Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) and others Monday afternoon.

"We expect to demonstrate that Wisconsin's refusal to allow marriages or to recognize out-of-state marriages of gay and lesbian couples violates the fundamental right to marry, as well as the equal protection guarantee of the 14th amendment of the United States constitution," said Larry Dupuis, legal counsel for the ACLU of Wisconsin.

Judi Trampf and Katy Heyning of Madison are two of the plaintiffs.  They have been a couple for over 25 years.

"We would like the ability to marry legally, in Wisconsin, and be recognized for the relationship that we have by everybody," said Heyning.

Lawyers for the ACLU call Wisconsin's ban especially egregious, making it a crime for same-sex couples to marry out of state.

"With penalties up to $10,000 and nine months in prison," said John Knight, an attorney who heads up the ACLU's LGBT and AIDS Project.

But supporters of the state's ban say Wisconsin voters have already voiced their opinion on this issue and that should be respected.
    
"Where does this stop?," asked Julaine Appling, President of Wisconsin Family Action.  "Where does the redefinition of marriage stop?"

The state's ban was approved by more than 59 percent of state voters in a 2006 referendum.

But the plaintiffs and their attorneys cite a recent Marquette Law School Poll in which 53 percent of the respondents say they now support legalizing same sex marriage.

"I think we are achieving the point at which a majority is starting to see that this is the right thing to do.  And we feel that Wisconsin should be part of that conversation," said Dupuis.

But Appling believes that at the end of the day, the federal courts will find the ban to be constitutional.

"I expect them to apply the rule of law to the case. If they do that, I'm optimistic that our marriage amendment withstands that kind of scrutiny," said Appling.

Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen (R-Wisconsin) responded to the lawsuit with a statement that read: "This constitutional amendment was approved by a large majority of Wisconsin residents. I believe the amendment is constitutional, and I will vigorously defend it."

The suit makes Wisconsin the sixth state in which the ACLU is currently challenging same-sex marriage bans.  Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and Oregon are the others.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Western Wisconsin Monday morning to challenge the state's same-sex marriage ban on behalf of eight plaintiffs.

The complaint requests an immediate halt to the enforcement of Wisconsin's ban.

"Lesbians and gay men in Wisconsin are denied the freedom afforded to different-sex couples in this state to have their loving, committed relationships recognized through marriage," according to the complaint.

The action is being brought on behalf of three couples -- one from Madison, two from Milwaukee -- who want the state to legally recognize their relationships by allowing them to marry. The fourth plaintiff couple, from Eau Claire, was married in Minnesota in December and is asking Wisconsin to recognize that union.

In 2006, Wisconsin voters ratified a constitutional amendment that banned gay marriages and civil unions by a 59-41 percent margin.

The lawsuit describes the amendment as "one of the most restrictive bans on marriage for same-sex couples in the nation" because it prohibits not just gay marriage but any equivalent of marriage, including civil unions.

The ACLU is holding a 12:30 news conference in Madison to discuss the lawsuit.

Capitol Bureau Chief Greg Neumann will have more on this story on 27 News at 5 and 6.


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