Wisconsin on Friday joined the growing number of states where federal judges have struck down same-sex marriage bans. The decision was cheered by lesbian and gay rights advocates, but it's not necessarily a final victory.
The ruling came the same day as a landmark lawsuit was filed against a similar ban in North Dakota, The Associated Press reported.
The Wisconsin ban violates the U.S. Constitution, said U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb. She said same-sex couples "are entitled to the same treatment as any heterosexual couple."
"I conclude that the Wisconsin laws prohibiting marriage between same-sex couples interfere with plaintiffs' right to marry, in violation of the due process clause, and discriminate against plaintiffs on the basis of sexual orientation, in violation of the (Constitution's) equal protection clause," the judge wrote.
Crabb did not immediately stay her own ruling, as some other federal judges issuing similar decisions have done, nor did she state that it takes effect right away.
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said the current law restricting marriage to one man and one woman, which is written into the Wisconsin state constitution, "remains in force."
"While today's decision is a setback, we'll continue to defend the constitutionality of our traditional marriage laws and the constitutional amendment, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters," Van Hollen said. "I will appeal."
In her ruling, Crabb noted that all federal judges weighing in on state same-sex marriage bans have come to the same conclusion -- that such prohibitions should not stand -- since the Supreme Court's landmark ruling on U.S. v. Winsdor last June.
That 5-4 opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, struck down the Defense of Marriage Act's definition of marriage as only between a man and a woman but did not directly affect individual states' laws restricting marriage based on sexual orientation. Yet many federal judges have cited the decision on United States v. Windsor in their judgments, as well as the argument that same-sex marriage bans violate the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Several appeals courts have heard arguments on some of the district court rulings that have been challenged, though none has come out with its own decision. Van Hollen said he expects "the U.S. Supreme Court will give finality to this issue in their next term."
Even if it's not a final decision, LGBT advocates cheered Friday's ruling on Wisconsin.
"Across the country, the courts agree: Same-sex couples and their families need the dignity of marriage, and anti-marriage laws are indefensible," said Evan Wolfson, president of the advocacy group Freedom to Marry.
"... Today's decision in Wisconsin underscores that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry. It's time now for the Supreme Court to bring resolution nationwide."
Also on Friday, couples in North Dakota filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, making it the last state the country to challenge such a ban, according to the AP.
The suit was filed by seven couples in the U.S. District Court in Fargo, the AP reported.
Several state gay marriage bans have been overturned since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act.
North Dakota attorney general's office told the AP that it had not seen the suit and would not comment.
The state’s ban was passed by 73 percent of voters in 2004, the AP reported.