Walker v. Wolf - Freedom to Marry in Wisconsin

October 7, 2014

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin and the law firm of Mayer Brown filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of eight same-sex couples who wish to marry in Wisconsin or are seeking recognition for their legal out-of-state marriages.

The plaintiffs include Roy Badger and Garth Wangemann of Milwaukee, Carol Schumacher and Virginia Wolf of Eau Claire; Salud Garcia and Pam Kleiss of Madison; Charvonne Kemp and Marie Carlson of Milwaukee; Kami Young and Karina Willes of West Milwaukee; Johannes Wallmann and Keith Borden of Madison; Judi Trampf and Katy Heyning of Madison; and William Hurtubise and Leslie “Dean” Palmer of Racine.

Wisconsin's ban on marriage for same-sex couples prevents them from securing the hundreds of protections that state law provides to married couples. Wisconsin law subjects same-sex couples to an additional harm that is unique among states that deny same-sex couples the freedom to marry. The only way for Wisconsin couples to get the federal protections that come with marriage is for them to go out of state to marry. But Wisconsin law says that may be a crime punishable by nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Among the plaintiff couples, Schumacher and Wolf and Young and Willeswere legally married in another state, raising the possibility of prosecution back at home. Wallman and Borden were married in Canada and lived as a legally married couple for more than four years before they came to Madison in the fall of 2012 for Wallman to accept a job as the Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Wisconsin. The lawsuit challenges the overall ban as well as the application of this criminal law to same-sex couples who are forced to choose between being denied federal protections and the risk of criminal prosecution.

The lawsuit is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The plaintiffs allege that the state's constitutional marriage ban sends a message that lesbians, gay men, and their children are viewed as second-class citizens who are undeserving of the legal sanction, respect, protections, and support that heterosexuals and their families are able to enjoy through marriage.

Status: Victory! On Oct. 6, 2014 the Supreme Court denied review in all of the marriage equality cases pending before it. As a result of the Court’s action, same-sex couples in Virginia, Wisconsin, Indiana, Oklahoma and Utah will now be able to marry the partners they love.


Carol Schumacher and Virginia Wolf. Eau Claire. Carol, 60, and Virginia, 74, both grew up in Kansas and moved to Wisconsin together in 1977. Carol worked as an elections administrator and city clerk, and is now retired. Virginia is a retired Unitarian Universalist minister and also a professor emeritus of English at The University of Wisconsin-Stout, where she worked 24 years. They live in Eau Claire with their border collie/Australian shepherd mix, Z.


Charvonne Kemp and Marie Carlson. Milwaukee. Charvonne, 43, and Marie, 48, have been partners more than seven years and raised two sons together. Charvonne is an accountant and Marie is a raw material handler for a manufacturing company. They both very much want to get married, and they want to do it in the state they call home.


Judith (Judi) Trampf and Katharina (Katy) Heyning. Madison. Judi, 53, and Katy, 51, met in college at the Girl Scout National Center in Wyoming. They were part of a group of women from the Midwest who would get together outside of summer camp.


Roy Badger and Garth Wangemann. Milwaukee. Roy, 56, and Garth, 58, have been together 37 years. They met through mutual friends when they were students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and got together on Election Day in November 1976.


Johannes Wallmann and Keith Borden. Madison. Johannes, 39, and Keith, 40, have been together for 15 years. Johannes is a music professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also a professional jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader. Keith is a classically trained singer and yoga instructor.


Salud Garcia and Pam Kleiss. Madison. Salud, 50, and Pam, 49, were both working for the American Association of Retired Persons -- Pam in Seattle, and Salud in California -- when they met. A coworker who was friends with both of them used to forward funny emails from Salud to Pam.


Kami Young and Karina Willes. West Milwaukee. Kami, 36, and Karina, 44, have been together for 13 years. They met a few minutes after midnight at a New Year’s Eve party on January 1, 2001, and went on their first date shortly later. They live in West Milwaukee with their dogs and cat.


Bill Hurtubise and Dean Palmer. Racine. Bill and Dean, both 40, live in Racine with their three children, ages 5, 4, and 2. Bill grew up in Racine, and he commutes four hours a day to work in Chicago so that he, Dean, and their children can live in his hometown near family, friends, and their church.



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