Conflict In Iraq, The Plaintiffs In Wisconsin’s Same-Sex Marriage Case, This Week In Wisconsin

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Heard On Central Time

Central Time is continuing its month-long series featuring stories from Wisconsin’s LGBT community. This week Veronica Rueckert and Rob Ferrett speak with the plaintiffs in the case challenging Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage ban. Then they get an update on the conflict flaring up this week in Iraq and round up the week’s news in Wisconsin.

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  • In Same-Sex Marriage Case, Two Plaintiffs See Progress, Challenges Ahead

    Same-sex marriages took place in Wisconsin for exactly a week.

    On June 6, federal Judge Barbara Crabb found Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional and seven days later — almost to the hour — stayed her decision, pending an appeal. During that time, more than 550 same-sex couples wed in Wisconsin.

    Proponents of same-sex marriage celebrated the ruling as a step in the right direction, but two of the plaintiffs in the case see a long road to the conclusion they’d like to see: joint parental rights over their daughter.

    Milwaukee couple Kami Young and Karina Willes were married in Minnesota in December 2013, but are pursuing the case so that they will be recognized as a couple in Wisconsin, and thus, co-parents of their daughter.

    Karina said that when she heard the news of Crabb’s ruling she was excited, but knew the details were still in limbo.

    “I know exactly what I want to happen, and that is for me to be recognized as a parent to our daughter, because right now, I’m not. My name wasn’t added to her birth certificate,” said Willes.

    Her wife Kami is the biological mother of their daughter.

    “Even though Kami and I went into the venture to get pregnant and have our daughter together as a couple, I’m still kind of an outsider. It hurts … Part of me is always very hesitant to even call myself a parent because I know by the eyes of the law I’m not,” said Willes.

    There will be no immediate change to Karina’s status as a parent, but Chris Ahmuty, director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Wisconsin, said he remains confident.

    “We recognize that we’re all in this for the long haul. We’re confident that not only public opinion, but legal developments are on the side of the ACLU and the clients,” said Ahmuty.

    “It’s going to get sorted out,” he said, “There’s a little doubt, a little anxiety. If you read Judge Crabb’s decision she declared the state constitutional ban on marriages except (those) between one man and one woman to be discriminatory.”

    Ahmuty said that Crabb actually advanced the case in favor of same-sex marriage beyond the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Windsor v. the United States, which struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

    “(Judge Crabb) said that LGBT couples have ‘heightened scrutiny.’ The government cannot just deny them liberty and equality because they come up with any old reason. That’s an important legal advance,” said Ahmuty.

    Willes and Young acknowledged that while they wait for a final decision in their case, part of their pursuit of LGBT rights in Wisconsin is being won outside of the courts.

    “(Society’s) openness has increased over the last couple years tremendously. I remember even 10 years ago being afraid of talking about my partner or our family,” said Willes.

    Young seconded that.

    “(People) have really been able to embrace us like normal people. We’re not something of an oddity anymore,” she said.

    Willes maintained, however, that, “the most important thing is getting the laws changed.”

    “I think it will make LGBT people… feel more accepting of themselves. I think LGBT people often have problems accepting themselves because of how other people view them,” she said.

    Ahmuty agrees.

    “There’s almost a symbiotic relationship. Equally important is the relationship between the law and societal attitudes,” he said.

    While they think it might take time before both social and legal standards are how they’d like them, Willes said she is happy to be part of the process.

    “On Saturday morning, I took the time to read the full 88-page ruing that Judge Crabb released on Friday,” she said, “And as I read it, I got very emotional over it because our names are associated with something that is going to change the way that people look at us, us being the whole LGBT community.”

    “I think it’s going to be a long struggle but this is a very important first step,” said Willes.

    Editor’s Note: This is part of Central Time’s month-long series, “Out in Wisconsin,” featuring stories from Wisconsin’s LGBT community on Fridays at 4:15 p.m. during the month of June.

  • Weekly News Roundup: Judge Strikes Down Same-Sex Marriage Ban

    Here’s a roundup of some of the top news in Wisconsin this week.

    Judge Strikes Wisconsin Same-Sex Marriage Ban

    U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb issued an order on June 6 that struck down Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage ban. Over the ensuing week, hundreds of same-sex couples went to county clerks to get marriage licenses, and while many were successful, some clerks held off of issuing any due to the legal ambiguities of Crabb’s ruling. This Friday, Crabb issued a final order that effectively ended the ban, but she also imposed a stay on that order, preventing counties from issuing an more licenses to same-sex couples until after appeals have been heard.

    Cheese Board Controversy

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had cheesemakers’ blood curdling this week when it suggested that the centuries-long practice of aging cheese on wooden boards might be dangerous. Wisconsin cheesemakers have around 30 million pounds of cheese ripening on wooden boards. The FDA has since softened its stance, saying it doesn’t intend to prohibit “the long-standing practice of using wood shelving in artisanal cheese.”

    Black Flies Invade Northern Wisconsin

    An outbreak of black flies in northern Wisconsin is causing loons to abandon their eggs. Researchers, who say this is the worst they’ve seen in more than a decade, blame the outbreak on the late snowmelt and say around 70 percent of nests have been abandoned.

    DNR Approves Construction of Oil Tanks in Superior

    The state Department of Natural Resources gave a permit to Enbridge Energy to construct three five-story crude oil tanks in Superior on Thursday. Thousands of comments and emails had been sent to the agency in the weeks leading up to the decision, many of them opposed to the proposal. The Sierra Club decried the project’s approval, and may challenge DNR’s decision.

  • Insurgent Group ISIS Taking Hold In Iraq, Syria

    Militants from The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have violently secured at least two cities in northern Iraq, and have taken hold in parts of Syria, as well. An expert on the region discusses who ISIS is, the group’s goals, and the pressure that’s now being put on the United States to act.

  • Plaintiffs In Wisconsin's Same Sex Marriage Case Share Their Story

    In 2006 Wisconsin passed a referendum banning same-sex marriages with 59 percent of the vote. That amendment to the state’s constitution was challenged by a group of same-sex couples and the Wisconsin ACLU and was struck down by a federal court on Friday, June 6th. The future of the case on a national level is yet to be determined. Those involved in the case share their stories.

  • State News Round-Up for June 13th, 2014

    WPR’s assistant news director joins us for a look at what’s making news in Wisconsin this week, including an update on a federal court’s ruling on same-sex marraige in the state.

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Veronica Rueckert Host
  • Galen Druke Producer
  • Marika Suval Producer
  • Chris Malina Producer
  • Noah Ovshinsky Guest
  • Andrew Tabler Guest
  • Karina Willes Guest
  • Kami Young Guest
  • Chris Ahmuty Guest