In the wake of U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb’s historic ruling declaring the state’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, Attorney Tamara Packard is leading the effort to ensure that same-sex couples are able to marry in Wisconsin. She was part of a team in Dane County that prepared for the possibility that the federal court would strike down the ban and enable marriages to begin immediately. When that possibility became a reality on June 6, Dane County was ready to comply with the law and issued over 130 marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the first 24 hours.
Local officials in other counties were uncertain about whether and how to process marriage licenses for same-sex couples, and some delayed doing so. That uncertainty was largely resolved with the help of Packard’s open letter to all 72 Wisconsin county clerks on June 10, which explains that clerks now have no legal authority to deny a same-sex couple from seeking to be legally married, regardless of that county’s involvement in the case or the potential for future judicial action.
In the open letter, Attorney Packard notes that strong Wisconsin case law provides that a law declared to be unconstitutional on its face cannot be enforced and that counties not party to the case must still abide by the declaration of the law. Resulting in part from Packard’s timely legal analysis and effective communication through news media, most counties are now providing marriage licenses to these couples. According to media reports, as of June 12 only 9 counties were still refusing to follow the law as declared by the federal court on June 6.
Beyond her role as a legal advocate for marriage equality in Wisconsin, Packard, who is also a supplemental court commissioner, has performed over 20 weddings between same-sex couples in the week since Judge Crabb’s ruling. Her law practice focuses on civil litigation, including employment law, in federal and state courts as well as administrative agencies.