The Freedom to Marry in Wisconsin

Winning Marriage: October 6, 2014

Same-sex couples began marrying in Wisconsin on October 6, 2014 after the United States Supreme Court denied review of a federal legal case in which a federal judge and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled that denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry in Wisconsin is unconstitutional.

History and the Path to Victory:

  • November 10, 2003: Governor Jim Doyle vetoes legislation passed by the state legislature that sought to restrict marriage to different-sex couples. Existing law already denied the freedom to marry to same-sex couples.
  • November 7, 2006: Opponents of the freedom to marry in Wisconsin push through Referendum 1, a constitutional amendment denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry and any other legal family status. The amendment cements clearly discriminatory language into the Wisconsin Constitution.
  • June 29, 2009: Governor Jim Doyle signs a budget bill into law that includes a domestic partnership allowance for same-sex couples. The domestic partnership law provides limited access to some of the protections of marriage and takes effect on August 3.
  • 2009-2014: As Americans nationwide engage in conversations about why marriage matters, national and local advocates in Wisconsin take strides toward increasing understanding of same-sex couples and their families.
  • October 29, 2013: Polling in Wisconsin tracks majority support for the freedom to marry for the first time, reflecting the power of the national discussion of why marriage matters.
  • February 3, 2014: Same-sex couples, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Wisconsin file Wolf v. Walker, a federal legal case seeking the freedom to marry in Wisconsin. In the same year, several other cases are filed, building momentum for marriage in the courts. Read the initial complaint – and meet the plaintiffs
  • June 6, 2014: U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb rules in favor of the freedom to marry in Wolf v. Walker, striking down Wisconsin's ban on same-sex couples from marrying. The judge does not initially place a stay on her order, allowing 500+ same-sex couples to marry over a 1-week period. Read the ruling
  • August 7, 2014: Across the Badger State, same-sex couples and their supporters come together to form Wisconsin Unites for Marriage, the broad-based coalition and public education campaign dedicated to winning marriage for same-sex couples in Wisconsin.
  • September 4, 2014: The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirms the freedom to marry in cases based in Wisconsin and Indiana, just days after the oral argument. Read the ruling.
  • October 6, 2014: The United States Supreme Court denies review of the pro-marriage ruling from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals (and two other appellate decisions), resolving the question of the freedom to marry in Wisconsin and finally allowing same-sex couples to marry statewide.
  • June 26, 2015: The United States Supreme Court rules in favor of the freedom to marry, ending marriage discrimination across the country.

Groups That Actively Worked on Marriage

  • Fair Wisconsin is Wisconsin's central statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights and advocacy organization.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union is a national legal organization working to bring civil rights to all Americans. The ACLU was counsel in Wolf v. Walker.
  • The ACLU of Wisconsin is a statewide legal organization working to bring civil rights to all Wisconsinites.
  • Freedom to Marry was the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.

Audio from the 7th Circuit Hearing on Wisconsin's Marriage Ban