Volunteers, county clerk come together to help marry same-sex couples

Organization helps couples pay for marriage licenses
Volunteers, county clerk come together to help marry same-sex couples

The Dane County Clerk’s Office has been preparing for weeks for the possibility of a ruling overturning Wisconsin’s ban on gay marriage.

County officials said they wanted to make sure they were properly staffed to help with the increase in demand of marriage licenses.

“Who knows what’s going to happen Monday morning. There could be a decision, and I’d hate to think that I was at home when we could’ve been doing marriage licenses,” Dane County Clerk Scott McDonnell said.

The county clerk’s office kept its doors open until 9 p.m. Friday night and opened again from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday to accommodate couples who wanted to immediately get married.

McDonnell said he’s proud to be a part of state history.

“This is a part of the civil rights movement, and it’s taken this country a long time to live up to our constitutional principles. At least we are moving in the right direction, and I’m feeling glad to be a little part of it,” McDonnell said.

McDonnell estimates around 70 people, including county workers, officiants and volunteers, came together to help marry couples.

On Saturday the Autonomous Solidarity Organization was stationed outside the City County Building to provide financial assistance to help couples who could not afford to get a marriage license.

Sara Gilbertson, treasurer of the organization, said most of their funds came from donations from the public.

“I was just concerned that because nobody knows what’s going to happen next week with the ruling that somebody wouldn’t be able to afford to come and pay $145.00 for a marriage license,” Gilbertson said.

Despite the uncertainty of what’s to come in the following weeks, Julia White and Cindy Ulsred were one of the many couples that decided to exchange vows this weekend.

“We don’t like the state of uncertainty that the state of Wisconsin has placed us in since day one. So we just wanted to get some sense of security,” White said.

The couple has been waiting 21 years to be married, and when they finally made it official Saturday, the couple said it all came down to one word.

“Just equality, that’s the most important thing right now,” they said.