Couples challenge Wisconsin's ban on same-sex marriage

MADISON (WITI) -- Four couples, including two from the Milwaukee area, filed suit in Madison on Monday, February 3rd challenging the validity of Wisconsin's ban on same-sex marriage. They say the ban violates the U.S. Constitution. Gov. Scott Walker, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and Milwaukee County Clerk Joseph Czarnecki are listed among those being sued.

The plaintiffs in this lawsuit include three couples which seek to marry -- and one couple that has already been married in another jurisdiction and wants Wisconsin to recognize that marriage. The American Civil Liberties Union is representing the couples.

"I would much prefer to have things changed by the legislature and elected officials as opposed to a group of liberal activists filing a lawsuit in court hoping that that's the way they're going to overturn the law," said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R).

Vos says the Wisconsin Domestic Partnership Registry already provides gay couples some legal protections. In 2006, Wisconsin voters passed a Constitutional amendment preventing same-sex marriage.

"The public was very clear, not even a decade ago in saying by almost 60 percent that marriage should be between one man and one woman -- and I think that's the way Wisconsin wants to keep it," said Vos.

The couples filed the formal challenge in federal court in Madison. The lawsuit asserts that the ban violates "the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution" and says these couples "seek the freedom to marry in Wisconsin." It alleges that "Wisconsin's denial of the freedom to marry has harmed these couples."

"As an openly LGBT state legislator, this issue has always been near and dear to my heart," said State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa (D).

Rep. Zamarripa plans to introduce legislation to repeal the ban, but supports and lawsuit.

"For LGBT Wisconsinsites to still be prevented from acknowledging their families it truly is inequality for us and I can understand why those families and the ACLU feel so strongly, they want to take it to court right now," said Zamarripa.

But conservative leaders, including Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, say they vow to fight the lawsuit.

"Gay marriage -- it should not be foisted upon the American public by unelected judges who decide what's best for America because we're just too stupid. I think it should be elected officials who make those decisions -- and perhaps it will change over time, but it's certainly not changing today," said Vos.

FOX6 News recently asked Gov. Scott Walker about the issue of same-sex marriage. He said he wanted to spend his time focused on the state's economy and not issues like gay marriage.

Any change in Wisconsin law would have to be passed in to consecutive Legislatures, and then voted on by the people.