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No more same-sex marriages in Wisconsin — for now

Shaun Heasley / Getty Images News

A week after striking down Wisconsin's same-sex marriage ban, US District Judge Barbara Crabb put the state's same-sex marriages on hold.

"Same-sex couples have waited many years to receive equal treatment under the law, so it is understandable that they do not want to wait any longer," Crabb wrote. "However, a federal district court is required to follow the guidance provided by the Supreme Court."

Following Crabb's ruling last week, county clerks began giving out marriage licenses to same-sex couples. During the Associated Press's latest count, 63 of 72 Wisconsin counties were giving out same-sex marriage licenses.

Crabb, however, later said she never intended her ruling to immediately allow same-sex marriages. Crabb instead hoped to give both sides of the case a couple weeks to argue whether the decision should be put on hold as it works through the appeals process, and only after she made that follow-up decision would it be clear whether same-sex marriages can begin.

But Crabb did not explicitly state in her ruling that same-sex marriages should not immediately start. Some county clerks saw the absence of clarity as an opening to immediately allow same-sex marriages.

The clerks' interpretation led Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who's fighting to uphold the state's same-sex marriage ban in court, to condemn county officials. He told the Journal-Sentinel that district attorneys could prosecute county clerks for their actions following the ruling.

"That's going to be up to district attorneys, not me," Van Hollen said. "There are penalties within our marriage code, within our statutes, and hopefully they're acting with full awareness of what's contained therein."

It's unclear what, exactly, will happen with the same-sex couples in Wisconsin who got married between the initial ruling and the stay. Under similar circumstances in Utah, the state government is refusing to recognize same-sex marriages even as the federal government recognizes them.