MILWAUKEE - A federal judge deemed Wisconsin's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional on Friday to the delight of gay couples who immediately began rushing to county offices to wed as word of the ruling spread.
The ruling marked the latest in a string of decisions by federal judges who have struck down gay marriage bans in a number of states, although the Wisconsin ruling sparked confusion over whether such marriages could now legally go ahead.
In two counties, officials said clerks were beginning to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Friday night, and in response Wisconsin's attorney general said he had filed emergency motions in the federal courts to stay the ruling.
In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb said that a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which Wisconsin adopted in 2006, violates gay couples' fundamental right to marry and their equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution.
"Quite simply, this case is about liberty and equality, the two cornerstones of the rights protected by the United States Constitution," Crabb wrote in the 88-page decision.
Milwaukee County's executive ordered the courthouse to remain open late on Friday to allow couples to marry. Officials said marriage licenses would also be handed out in Dane County, which includes the state capital, Madison.
"We will continue to defend the constitutionality of our traditional marriage law