Monday, February 19, 2007

Jail Time for Rep. Mark Pocan?

Representative Mark Pocan very publicly broke Wisconsin law, and if tried and convicted he faces thousands of dollars in fines and nearly a year in jail. His crime? Going to Toronto last November to marry his male partner.

Under an obscure Wisconsin law, anyone living in Wisconsin who goes to another state or country and gets married there, when such a marriage is not permitted in Wisconsin, is subject to criminal penalties and can be fined ten thousand dollars and thrown in jail for nine months.

Everyone knows that a marriage between two men or two women isn't legal in Wisconsin, and wasn't legal even before we amended our constitution to enshrine intolerance in that great document. But there's been little attention paid to the fact that it's also illegal for a gay or lesbian couple to travel out of state to get married. The Human Rights Campaign and Attorneys Against the Ban both picked up on it, but I haven't seen this discussed in the MSM or on any of the blogs I read.

Wisconsin Statute § 765.30 states:
(1) The following may be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned for not more than 9 months or both:
"(a) Penalty for marriage outside the state to circumvent the laws. Any person residing and intending to continue to reside in this state who goes outside the state and there contracts a marriage prohibited or declared void under the laws of this state."

Now, you might think this was put in place just to make life difficult for single-sex couples, but it wasn't. It appears to have been intended to prevent Wisconsinites from doing stupid things like going to Alabama to marry their fourteen year old first cousins. Unfortunately the law is broadly drawn, and Mark Pocan and probably many others have unintentionally broken it. While Mark and his partner have little to worry about because it's unlikely a DA in Dane County would bring charges against them, that may not be true in other parts of Wisconsin.

BTW, congratulations and best wishes to Mark and Philip. I hope their marriage, whether recognized in Wisconsin or not, is long and happy.

1 comment:

Andy Olsen said...

My wife and I also got married in Canada, but right before the November election, as an act of protest against this discriminatory amendment.

So I guess we're safe, but it will be interesting to see if the AG gets behind enforcing this law.