WISCONSIN has just become the 20th state in the US to allow same-sex marriage after a federal court judge deemed its ban unconstitutional.

The ruling marked the latest in a string of decisions by federal judges across the country who have struck down gay marriage bans, although the Wisconsin ruling sparked some confusion over whether such marriages could now legally go ahead.

According to a Reuters report, clerks in two counties issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Friday night (Saturday morning Australian time), and in response Wisconsin’s attorney general filed an emergency motion asking the judge to stay her ruling.

Milwaukee County issued 68 marriage licenses to same-sex couples, with its courthouse staying open late to allow couples to wed and 66 marriages were performed.

Another 61 marriage licenses were issued to gay couples in Dane County, which includes the capital city Madison.

US District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, which was adopted in 2006, violated gay couples’ right to marry and their equal protection rights under the US Constitution.

However, in a statement  State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said: “We will continue to defend the constitutionality of our traditional marriage laws and the constitutional amendment, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters.”

The breakthrough in Wisconsin comes shortly after seven same-sex couples filed a federal lawsuit challenging North Dakota’s ban on same-sex marriage on the same day. Up until then, North Dakota was the last state where a ban on same-sex marriage was still in effect had not yet been challenged.

Challenges to state bans on same-sex marriage has gathered momentum since the US Supreme Court struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last June.

Not including Wisconsin, same-sex marriage is now legal in 19 states plus the District of Columbia, and that figure could grow sharply if more federal court rulings striking down bans in other states are upheld on appeal. 

Just last month, both Pennsylvania and Oregon legalised same-sex marriage as well.

(With Reuters)

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