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For now, first time ever, Wisconsin gays can make their vows official

Wanda Brown (left) and Phyllis Goldin of River Falls got married 10 years ago in Canada. They’ve been waiting ever since for similar recognition in Wisconsin.

Wedding bells are in the air for Wisconsin same-sex couples.

Media reports say many couples have already been married in Madison and Milwaukee, following the decision by federal judge Barbara Crabb who ruled Wisconsin’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional Friday, June 6.

There was a time Wanda Brown and Phyllis Goldin of River Falls thought they would never see this day.

“We could never have imagined that this would happen in our lifetimes,” Brown said. “It’s very exciting. We kind of expected Wisconsin would be the last to achieve this kind of justice.”

In fact, Brown said she and Goldin, who have been together 40 years and were married 10 years ago in Canada, have been looking at real estate in the Twin Cities since gay marriage became legal in Minnesota.

“We’ve just been waiting, biding our time and hoping that we would have a choice about whether we could remain in River Falls, which we consider to be home,” Goldin said.

Said Brown: “We can't stay in a place that doesn't recognize us as next of kin. It's absurd to think that we would be next of kin if we lived 15 minutes to the west and that where we live, in River Falls, we're strangers in the eyes of the law."

They are “strangers-in-law,” as Goldin calls it, no more.

“We are considered married now, in Wisconsin, with full rights, and we are next of kin,” Goldin said. “It’s wonderfully exciting. It’s great.”

Now, Goldin and Brown said, they have the option to stay in River Falls.

Brown and Goldin said it’s important to them that their marriage be recognized, especially for reasons like taxes and Social Security.

"Unless our marriage is recognized where we live, the Social Security organization does not recognize us as a couple, which has huge financial implications for us over the long term,” Brown said.

She said she knows many other couples -- especially aging couples -- that would benefit from being allowed to marry.

“There is a terrible urgency for people to marry,” she said. “The older we get, the more important it becomes for the marriage situation to get resolved.”

On Monday Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen asked Crabb to halt, at least temporarily, the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Crabb refused.

However, media reports Tuesday widely indicated it was likely Crabbe’s decision will be appealed.

While it isn’t clear yet if marriages like Brown and Goldin’s will continue to be recognized in Wisconsin, Brown said the couple will likely be attending some weddings soon.

Said Brown, “We'll probably be standing up for lots of our friends who are going to get married right away.”

Click here to read more about same-sex marriage in Wisconsin.

For the complete story, please see the June 12 print edition of the River Falls Journal.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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