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Thursday, March 5, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 3.0° F  Fair
The Daily
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With no stay from court, marriages of same-sex couples continue for second day in Dane County
Linda Kruchten (center): 'I'm just happy for them that they can finally do this.'
Credit:Judith Davidoff

Beth Kernan and her partner, Jamie Kernan, decided to celebrate their relationship in September with a large reception even though they were not able to get legally married in Wisconsin at the time. Beth's mom, Linda Kruchten, was among the 200 or so friends and family there, but she didn't shed any tears. Saturday was a different story.

Kruchten cried softly when Beth and Jamie were married legally in a ceremony on the steps of the City-County Building in downtown Madison.

"It's a real validation for them," said Kruchten. "It's what they wanted."

Beth's brother, David, performed the ceremony while her dad, Michael, took video. David's wife, Emily, and three-month-old son, Jacob, were also there.

"I'm just happy for them that they can finally do this and be exactly like any other couple," Kruchten added.

Beth and Jamie, both 27, met at the University of Wisconsin-Madison six years ago and live in Madison. They were on their way to Oshkosh Friday night when they heard that U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb had issued a ruling overturning Wisconsin's 2006 ban on same-sex marriage.

They stayed for dinner and then returned home late to get together the paperwork they needed to get their marriage license at the Dane County Clerk's office. They rose early, stopped at the Dane County Farmers' Market for some scones, and were the third couple in line at the clerk's office by 7 a.m.

Jamie, who is an accountant, said the ability to legally marry "finalized" their relationship. "There was always an asterisk when people asked about it," she said.

Beth, a nurse, said now she no longer has to "hesitate" when people ask if she is married.

The Dane County Clerk's office stayed open until 9 p.m. Friday to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples who wished to get married following Crabb's 88-page written decision, which was issued late in the afternoon. Sixty-one couples got married Friday night.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen filed a motion late Friday requesting that Crabb stay her ruling and that the marriages taking place in Dane and Milwaukee counties cease. Not knowing what her response would be, it was unclear whether marriages would be able to continue on Saturday. But no word of a stay came from the court or the justice department and the doors to the Dane County clerk's office opened at 9 a.m.

As of 3 p.m. 66 more licenses had been issued, according to the clerk's office.

The line that had formed in the morning disappeared for the most part by noon, with a slow but steady stream of couples coming to city hall for marriage licenses.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Dane County clerk Scott McDonell were on hand again Saturday.

Parisi said he was just trying to absorb the impact of Crabb's ruling Friday night. But on Saturday morning, he added, "I woke up with so much joy."

There was plenty of joy among the couples and their friends and families Saturday, though the crowd was smaller and less boisterous than on Friday night. There were special touches, nevertheless. People brought flowers and left them in a bucket on the steps of city hall -- free to any couple getting married.

Mairead Thistle and Elize Steinhoff, both 16, serenaded the couples with their violins. Their plan had been to busk at the farmers' market but in light of Crabb's ruling headed instead to city hall. "We decided to play here because it's such a happy event," said Steinhoff. "It's just really awesome to be able to show our support," added Thistle.

The Forward! Marching Band also came for the occasion and U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) stopped by to show his support. He noted he and his husband, Phil, had to go to Canada to get married.

"Now you can, in your own community, with your friends and family and neighbors, and be able to have that recognition," he says. "It's long overdue but we're happy it's here."

"We're finally heading into that column of states doing the right thing," he added.

Democratic state lawmakers were also milling about, including state Reps. Melissa Sargent, Chris Taylor and Terese Berceau. Some had just returned from the party convention in the Wisconsin Dells.

Couples for the most part came in summer shorts and sandals, but some dressed up. Tina Cady and Cody Huston wore long, white wedding dresses and Ravi Manghnani wore a traditional Indian hat and silk pants when he married his partner, Todd Kinsman.

Manghnani says he and Kinsman had a wedding ceremony two weeks ago and pulled their wedding garb "out of retirement" on Saturday to be married legally. This will be the fourth anniversary they celebrate: the others include the day they met, when they became domestic partners and their first ceremony. But Kinsman said Saturday felt different.

"It just feels special," he said. "Like we're making history."

The Dane County Clerk's office will be closed Sunday, but reopen at 8 a.m. on Monday. McDonell said things went smoothly on Friday and Saturday, despite the initial rush.

"We were able to get that line down Friday so that everyone was taken care of by 9 p.m.," he said. The office was also able to help couples who ran into snags with their documents. One couple, for instance, needed a certified copy of a birth certificate and another needed the required divorce documents.

The problem he could not solve involved the four couples who came from the Fox Valley in search of marriage licenses. Couples must obtain marriage licenses from the county where they live, he said.

Parisi acknowledged the attempts by Van Hollen to stay the granting of marriage licenses in Dane County. But he maintains the county is on the right side of the law. "In our opinion, it is not only allowed. It's required under the Constitution."

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