Though the fight for marriage equality is still playing out across many states, the advancement of federal benefits for legal same-sex marriages has an immediate effect for couples throughout the entire countries. Conservatives, however, don’t want families who live in states that don’t have marriage equality to access those benefits, and thus they’re trying to pretend that they don’t exist.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak (DFL) has been reaching out to Wisconsin and Illinois same-sex couples, inviting them to travel to his city to marry now that Minnesota has marriage equality. According to the National Organization for Marriage, however, Ryback is trying to “force same-sex marriage on neighboring states”:
Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak is launching an ad campaign encouraging Wisconsin same-sex couples to come to his town to ‘marry’. The campaign, which will start running in Milwaukee and Madison area publications, is already being called a shameless attempt at self-promotion, with the mayor simply using marriage to raise his own profile.
Keep in mind, Wisconsin voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2006 that protects marriage as husband and wife in their state. And as Wisconsin Family Action President Julaine Appling reiterates, “Our law would not recognize any validity to those (same-sex) marriages performed in any other state.”
Wisconsin law is irrelevant in Minnesota, so nothing is stopping Wisconsin residents from driving across the border to legally wed*. And Wisconsin law is irrelevant for many of the federal benefits that recognize place of celebration, such as immigration green cards, benefits for military servicemembers and federal employees, veterans’ benefits, Medicare nursing home benefits, and the benefits of filing taxes jointly. As Wisconsin couples married in Minneapolis access those federal benefits, the state is perfectly welcome to continue to not recognize their marriage at the state level — no “forcing” is at hand.
Surely Rybak is hoping to get some tourism business to his city from marriage equality, but he’s also got marriage licenses for any and all same-sex couples who want to come get one. And of course, if states like Illinois and Wisconsin are upset they aren’t getting the revenue from those marriage licenses, there’s an easy way to fix it so that they can.
*An obscure Wisconsin law apparently penalizes residents who enter into out-of-state marriages that would be prohibited in Wisconsin, and sentences could include fines and prison time. There could be a distinction between marriages that wouldn’t be performed and marriages that wouldn’t be recognizes; i.e. because Wisconsin explicitly doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages, it doesn’t matter if couples marry. This would be different for a couple who cannot marry because of their age in Wisconsin, but could be recognized if they marry elsewhere and return.