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Judge strikes down Wis. gay-marriage ban

MADISON, Wis. – A federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage on Friday, ruling it unconstitutional.

It wasn’t clear whether U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb’s 88-page ruling cleared the way for same-sex marriages to begin immediately.

But the 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.

County clerks in Milwaukee and Madison said they had just learned of the decision and were trying to figure out if and when they could begin issuing marriage licenses.

Milwaukee County Clerk Joe Czarnezki said he was keeping his office open while an attorney reviewed the decision in case he could begin accepting marriage licenses Friday evening.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in February on behalf of four gay couples, then later expanded to eight, challenging Wisconsin’s constitutional ban on gay marriage. Messages left with the ACLU’s attorneys were not immediately returned Friday.

A spokeswoman for Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who defended the law, did not immediately return a message.

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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