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ACLU challenges gay marriage ban

Gilman Halsted, Wisconsin Public Radio

Wisconsin's constitutional ban on gay marriage is facing a lawsuit from four same-sex couples.

Central to the suit is a challenge to a state law that allows for the prosecution of same-sex couples who go out of state to get married. The lawsuit filed by the state and national ACLU also challenges the gay marriage ban on constitutional grounds, because it denies same-sex couples legal protections available to heterosexual couples solely on the basis of their sexual orientation.

At a news conference in Madison today, Judi Trampf said the criminal sanction against leaving the state to get married is a key factor in why she and her partner of 25 years joined the lawsuit.

“My partner and I really are law-abiding citizens,” said Trampf. “We're not setting out to disobey laws in Wisconsin. We love each other very much and we want the freedom to marry and we're not going to break the law in Wisconsin to do that.”

Attorney John Knight says Wisconsin's law is unique.

“Couples throughout the country have been able to access federal protections even if their state did not allow them to marry,” said Knight. “In Wisconsin, they're put at this risk of saying, ‘Well if I do that I may end up in jail.’”

Julaine Appling directs Wisconsin Family Action, the group that spearheaded Wisconsin's marriage protection amendment. She said she’s not surprised by the legal challenge, but said she's convinced gay marriage ban will survive.

“I think if the courts uphold the rule of law and evaluate this particular amendment for what it is and what it says, they'll find that it doesn't run afoul of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution,” said Appling.

ACLU attorneys said the Wisconsin gay marriage suit is one of six now pending in federal courts. They say one of them will eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.