Federal Judge Rejects Delay in Wisconsin Marriage Equality Case

U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb has rejected an attempt by Wisconsin officials to delay the marriage equality case pending before her. Ruling on March 24, Judge Crabb confirmed a schedule established by Magistrate Judge Stephen Crocker to complete briefing in the case by the end of May 2014, with arguments on a motion for summary judgment expected soon after. “Abstaining or staying the case would serve no purpose but to delay the case,” wrote Crabb in Wolf v. Walker, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 38554 (W.D. Wis., March 24, 2014).

Eight same-sex couples filed suit in the Western District of Wisconsin challenging the state’s ban on same sex marriage, which is contained in a constitutional amendment and statutes. They had filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, but Judge Crabb suggested that if they would withdraw the motion, she would set an expedited scheduled to get the case through discovery to a summary judgment hearing quickly. They withdrew their motion, the magistrate set a short briefing schedule, and then the state  defendants — Governor Scott Walker, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, Secretary of Revenue Richard G. Chandler, State Registrar Oskar Anderson and two district attorneys — filed a new “motion to abstain and stay,” arguing that Crabb should put the case “on hold” until a case now pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court concerning interpretation of the state’s marriage amendment is decided, and to “abstain” from ruling in this case because the relief requested by the plaintiffs — injunctions against three county clerks – “would disrupt the state’s important interest in the uniform and coherent administration of state marriage laws.”  The three county clerks are also defendants in the case, but they actually side with the plaintiffs on the merits.

For the full story, access the April 2014 issue of Lesbian/Gay Law Notes.