Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen warned Thursday that county clerks issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the state could be prosecuted.
“You do have many people in Wisconsin basically taking the law into their own hands and there can be legal repercussions for that,” Van Hollen said, as quoted by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “So, depending on who believes they’re married under the law and who doesn’t believe they’re married under the law may cause them to get themselves in some legal problems that I think are going to take years for them and the courts to work out.”
Van Hollen added that the clerks were risking prosecution even though he didn’t think the same applied to same-sex couples.
“That’s going to be up to district attorneys, not me,” Van Hallen said, according to the newspaper. “There are penalties within our marriage code, within our statutes, and hopefully they’re acting with full awareness of what’s contained therein.”
A federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage ban last week but did not make it clear whether gay marriages were to begin immediately. As of Thursday, 63 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties were issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, according to the Associated Press.
Van Hollen has requested an emergency stay of the federal judge’s ruling appealed the decision to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. County clerks may be jailed for up to nine months and fined up to $10,000 for issuing marriage licenses that aren’t allowed under state law, according to the Journal-Sentinel.
But Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell, the first clerk to issue a same-sex marriage license in Wisconsin, told the Journal-Sentinel that Van Hollen’s warning “doesn’t keep me up at night.”
“He needs to call off the dogs and turn off the fire hoses,” McDonell said of Van Hollen.
This post has been updated.
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at email@example.com.