"We expect that this lawsuit will bring the freedom to marry to all Wisconsinites," Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, said at a news conference Monday at the Madison Concourse Hotel. Dupuis added that the lawsuit would "demonstrate that Wisconsin's refusal to allow marriages, or to recognize out-of-state marriages of gay and lesbian couples, violates the fundamental right to marry as well as the equal protection guarantee of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution."
The complaint charges that the ban violates the due process clause and equal protection clause of the United States Constitution by preventing same-sex couples from marrying in the state and by preventing the recognition of same-sex marriages entered into in other states.
The complaint asks the court to prohibit the defendants in the lawsuit -- which include Gov. Scott Walker, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell, and other public officials -- from enforcing the ban.
Three of the couples are seeking the ability to marry in the state, including Judi Trampf and Katy Heyning, who live in Madison. One couple married elsewhere and is seeking recognition of the union in Wisconsin.
The plaintiffs include "an accountant, a steel handler for a manufacturing company, a college director of human resources, a retired city clerk, an editor, a customer service agent, a university dean, a retired English professor and a minister," said Dupuis. "Most have been together for decades and some are raising or have raised children children."
Wisconsin voters in 2006 approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions.Wisconsin Family Action led the campaign for the amendment. Julaine Appling, executive director of the group, could not be reached today for comment on the ACLU lawsuit.
Federal judges have recently struck down gay marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma, and there is a pending lawsuit in Virginia with the same aim. The lawsuit in Virginia also charges that the ban violates the Constitution's equal protection and due process clauses.
John Knight, staff attorney with the ACLU's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Project, said at the news conference that public support for gay marriage is growing: "Nationally, we've seen an outpouring of support for treating loving, committed same-sex couples fairly."
Fair Wisconsin, the statewide advocacy group for gay rights, issued a statement in support of the ACLU lawsuit. "We certainly support the relief requested in the ACLU's case, as well as all efforts to make marriage equality a reality," said Katie Belanger, executive director of the group. "We look forward to monitoring the Wisconsin case and the more than 40 cases across the country as they continue to move forward.
Read the complete lawsuit.
[Editor's note: This article was updated at 4:43 p.m. with reporting from the ACLU news conference.]