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Wisconsin AG to clerks issuing same-sex marriage licenses: You could be prosecuted

Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice on state AG: He's just frustrated.
By Matt Bradwell   |   June 12, 2014 at 5:04 PM
| License Photo

MADISON, Wyo., June 12 (UPI) -- County clerks in Wisconsin could face prosecution for issuing same-sex marriage licenses, according to state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.

A federal judge overturned Wisconsin's ban on June 6, but Van Hollen appealed the ruling, issuing a stay on same-sex marriage licenses. Despite the appeal, county clerks throughout the state are issuing marriage licenses, a move that Van Hollen warns could lead to criminal charges.

"That's going to be up to district attorneys, not me," Van Hollen said Thursday.

"There are penalties within our marriage code, within our statues, and hopefully they're acting with full awareness of what's contained therein. ... You do have many people in Wisconsin basically taking the law into their own hands, and there can be legal repercussions for that."

But prosecution is unlikely, as special prosecutors would have to be flown in since county clerks and the prosecuting district attorneys are likely to know one another after years working side-by-side.

Furthermore, Janine Geske, a Marquette University law professor and former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Van Hollen's threat is based more on humiliated posturing than legal standard.

"This isn't a case where county clerks should be prosecuted," Geske explained.

"The attorney general is totally frustrated and unfortunately he took his frustration out on county clerks ... He bullied the county clerks."

Van Hollen is not seeking reelection.

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