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On October 6, 2014, 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 banning same-sex couples from marriage is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court’s decision to deny review meant that same-sex couples in Wisconsin could get married effective immediately, and Wisconsin began issuing marriage licenses that day.

The case that brought an end to Wisconsin’s anti-marriage constitutional amendment was Wolf v. Walker. In February 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Wisconsin filed the case, seeking the freedom to marry for same-sex couples across the state of Wisconsin. On June 6, 2014, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb overturned Wisconsin’s discriminatory state ban on marriage for same-sex couples.

On September 4, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit affirmed the freedom to marry in Wisconsin, upholding U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb’s ruling. All parties involved in the case urged the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case and decide the question of whether same-sex couples had the freedom to marry nationwide. The October order denying review meant that the lower court ruling stands, and Wisconsin is officially a freedom-to-marry state.


In 2006, anti-gay forces in Wisconsin pushed through Referendum 1, a constitutional amendment that excludes same-sex couples from marriage and prohibits same-sex couples from attaining any other form of legal family status.

On June 29, 2009, Governor Jim Doyle signed a budget bill into law after it was approved by the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate. The budget bill included a domestic partnership allowance for same-sex couples. The domestic partnership law provides limited access to some of the protections that the freedom to marry affords. The limited domestic partnership law took effect on August 3, 2009.


  • 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 and is one of the organizations that has filed a federal lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry in Wisconsin. 
  • The ACLU of Wisconsin is a statewide legal organization working to bring civil rights to all Wisconsinites and is one of the organizations working on a federal lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry in Wisconsin. 
  • Freedom to Marry is the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.


Wisconsin is seeing a shift on marriage perspectives. Whereas an anti-gay marriage amendment passed in 2006 by a 19-point margin, recent polling finds that 51% of the state supports the freedom to marry now. (Wisconsin Gazette, April 2014)


According to The Williams Institute's analysis of the 2010 U.S. Census, 9,179 same-sex couples are living in Wisconsin, representing 4.0 same-sex couples per 1,000 households.

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