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May 28, 2017

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Judge strikes down Wisconsin gay marriage ban

MADISON, Wisconsin--A federal judge struck down Midwestern Wisconsin state's ban on same-sex marriage Friday, the latest in a string of such rulings that have come in rapid succession across the United States.

Same sex-couples in two cities began getting married about an hour after the ruling despite confusion over whether the decision cleared the way for the marriages to begin immediately. Wisconsin's attorney general quickly sought an emergency federal court order to stop the weddings.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb's ruling makes Wisconsin the 27th state where same-sex couples can marry under law or where a judge has ruled they ought to be allowed to wed.

State marriage bans have been falling around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Elsewhere in the country, seven couples filed a federal lawsuit Friday challenging the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in North Dakota, which had been the only state whose ban had not been challenged in the courts. With Friday's filing, cases are currently pending in all 31 states with gay marriage bans.

In 19 states and Washington, D.C., gay couples already can wed, with Oregon and Pennsylvania becoming the latest to join the list when federal judges struck down their bans and officials decided not to appeal.

Crabb's ruling declared the gay marriage ban unconstitutional. But the judge also asked the couples who sued to describe exactly what they wanted her to block in the law, then gave Van Hollen's office a chance to respond. She said she would later decide whether to put her underlying decision on hold while it is appealed.

Clerks in Madison and Milwaukee started marrying same sex-couples Friday evening.

"I'm still up in the clouds!" Shari Roll said shortly after completing her ceremony marrying Renee Currie just a block from the state Capitol in Madison.

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen vowed to appeal the ruling. He said he sought the emergency order to stop the weddings because confusion and uncertainty is resulting and the status quo must be preserved.

The lawsuit alleged that Wisconsin's ban violates the plaintiffs' constitutional rights to equal protection and due process, asserting the prohibition deprives gay couples of the legal protections that married couples enjoy simply because of their gender.

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